Almost 1/3 of women in the US have migraine headaches at some time, and about 7 million women experience 4 or more attacks per month. The World Health Organization indicates migraine headaches are one of the 20 most disabling medical illnesses on the planet. If you suffer from migraines, you’ve probably tried almost everything. Avoidance of ‘triggers’ like stress and certain foods and food additives (cheese, MSG, nitrates, caffeine) may help a little. The triptan group of medications (Imitrex, Maxalt, Relpax, Zomig) are moderately effective in treating the headaches once they’ve begun. Wouldn’t it be great to have some type of treatment that actually decreased the frequency and intensity of migraine headaches, something that prevented them from happening in the first place?
How Botox Helps With Migraines
In the early 2000’s a plastic surgeon in Cleveland noted that many of his brow lift patients liked their appearance after surgery but raved about how they didn’t have headaches any more. After thinking about this, he came up with the idea that migraine headaches might be caused by compression of nerves. When he did brow lifts, one of the things he was doing was removing muscle from around nerves directly above the eye. Removing muscle in this way decompressed the small nerves in that area. People who suffer from migraines can often point directly to the spot that their migraines begin, and for many of them this spot is directly above the eye.
The surgeon in Cleveland and others have studied the use of BOTOX to treat migraine headaches. BOTOX causes muscles to relax. If a nerve runs through a muscle that is contracting a lot, that nerve could be irritated by the repetitive muscle action. Relaxing the involved muscle with BOTOX has been shown to be an effective treatment of chronic migraine headaches. In fact, in 2010 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of onabotulinumtoxin A (BOTOX) to prevent headaches in adult patients with chronic migraines.
Surgery for Migraine Headaches
This plastic surgeon in Cleveland didn’t stop there. He and others have developed surgical treatments for migraine sufferers. When BOTOX is injected around specific nerves in a patient, and that patient experiences fewer headaches, it may be possible to do a surgical procedure to decompress the nerves and minimize the headaches on a long-term basis. When BOTOX relaxes muscles that are compressing the nerve(s) and the headaches stop, then surgically removing those same muscles may provide long-term relief. This surgical technique is still in evolution.
If you have visited with a neurologist and been diagnosed with chronic migraines, ask about BOTOX. In our office we do not specifically target/treat migraine headaches with BOTOX. Even so, our incredible Aesthetics Nurse, Krista, has many clients who have noted substantial improvements in their migraines after BOTOX injections.