What is a migraine? Why migraine happens. Who gets migraines? Treating migraines.

Not Just for Wrinkles

All the Rage

Botox, the miracle drug that is all the rage for getting rid of frown lines, is derived from the same botulinum nerve toxin that is responsible for botulism, a life-threatening, paralytic disease. The toxin does seem to have its good and bad sides but few people seem to be aware that Botox has long served other medical purposes.

In one of its more remarkable incarnations, Botox has been found to help patients with disabling movement disorders affecting the eyes and face. In the last 20 years or so, many patients have found relief from such conditions through intermittent injections of Botox.

Effective Headache Treatment

Within the last few years, yet another application for Botox has been found: the toxin is an effective treatment for headaches. While there are many medications available to treat headaches, some have unpleasant side effects or patients find them less than effective. However, researchers have found that Botox works as a long-term treatment for headaches and has mild side effects.

As Botox began to hit its stride as a wrinkle treatment, doctors and patients began to notice that patients receiving injections of the drug reported fewer headaches. A number of clinical trials were then undertaken to study the use of Botox injections as a treatment for headache. A rough two-thirds of such studies reported that the botulinum toxin can relieve migraine, muscle tension, and chronic daily headaches.

In many cases, the results have been dramatic. Some patients suffering from daily headaches for years, reported being headache-free from two to five months after receiving a Botox injection. Doctors suggest that a full one-third of their patients have complete relief from their headaches, another one-third have partial relief, and the final third finds no change in their condition after receiving Botox.

The standard treatment of headaches with Botox consists of ten injections, five in the forehead area, and five at the back of the neck. The only reported side effect is a slight decrease of movement in the forehead and in the ability to raise the eyebrows. The minimal side effects are due to small doses and local treatment.

While some patients have relief within 24 hours, some may find the injections take up to 2 weeks to kick in. Once pain relief is effected, patients continue to experience relief for 2-5 months.

It is believed that the botulinum toxin works by reducing muscle contractions, blocking the production of headache causing chemicals, or perhaps through a combination of these two factors. As the drug becomes popular as a standard headache treatment, doctors will learn more about how the drug works and will be able to enhance its effectiveness.