Headaches are seen in 22% of people living with Neurofibromatosis, myself included. Unfortunately in my case, my headaches seem to be treatment resistant. One of the many suggestions I received from doctors was for me to try medicinal botox to see if that would reduce the number of headaches I was having in a month. So here is the lowdown on how Botox works to treat headaches!
What is Botox?
In high doses, Botox is actually a toxin that causes paralysis of muscles. The FDA approved the usage of Botox as a treatment for chronic headaches/migraines in 2010.
Why Botox for Headaches?
As with many things in the medical field, there are conflicting beliefs on how Botox works to treat headaches. One theory is that Botox helps to stop the release of a special chemical in the brain called a nociceptor. By stopping these chemicals from being released, a person is not able to feel pain, or the pain they are already experiencing should decrease. Another theory is that Botox temporarily relaxes some of the muscles in the head and neck which is thought to help decrease headache pain.
Does this actually work?
1384 patients were used in a study to see if Botox could help decrease the number of headaches they were having in a month. Each of the participants were experiencing approximately 20 headaches or so a month, 18 of which were "severe". Patients were given Botox every 12 weeks for a year, and the results were very surprising! After the course of treatment, 70% of the patients were having 50% FEWER headaches a month than at the beginning of the trial... meaning 70% of the patients were having less than 10 headaches a month! Results seem to have stayed the same, as most sources say Botox is an effective treatment approximately 75% of the time.
** Unfortunately in my case the Botox did not work to alleviate my headaches**
Where is the Botox given?
The Botox is injected by a very small needle into your head and neck, and causes minimal pain.
Who can get this treatment?
Not everyone who has headaches is eligible to receive Botox treatments. Only patients with chronic migraines are able to receive this treatment. Chronic migraine is defined as "...headaches occuring 15 or more days each month, at least half of which have migranious features (ex: sensitivity to light, nausea and vomiting, pain behind your eyes, etc)".
What is the cost of this treatment? Is it covered by health care?
The cost of treatment really depends, but it usually ranges from $300-600, and is not covered by most health care plans in Canada.
What are the side effects?
The most common side effects from this medication are: neck pain, muscular weakness, and drooping of the eyelid.
So there you have it folks, I hope you all learned something new today! Thanks for reading everyone!
P.S. Obviously one of the answers to my question was "to treat headaches", but some other off-label uses for Botox are: drooling, hair loss, overactive bladder, ulcers, bladder problems, excessive sweating, and hand tremors a just a few of the many off-label uses for Botox!