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I am just returning for the annual American Association of Nurse Practitioners.  I was honored to speak at one of their general sessions on the topic of Chronic Pain Management, to a packed house of over 5,000 like-minded Nurse Practitioners.  In this meeting, I attended a hands-on training seminar on the treatment of migraines, using Botox therapy.  We all know that Botox has been famous for smoothing out wrinkles on the face.  It has now been approved by the FDA to treat chronic migraine headaches in adults, and there is some promising results.  So, let’s look at migraine headaches, and how Botox can be beneficial in its treatment.

What is a Migraine headache?

A migraine is a common type of headache that may occur with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light. In many people, a throbbing pain is felt only on one side of the head. Some people who get migraines have warning symptoms, called an aura, before the actual headache begins.  Migraine headaches affect more than 12% of the population.

Who is appropriate for Botox injections for migraine headaches?

Patients with chronic migraine experience a headache more than 14 days of the month. This condition can greatly affect family, work, and social life, so it is important to have a variety of effective treatment options available.

How is Botox used to treat migraines?

A qualified medical specialists administer 31 Botox injections into seven specific head and neck sites every 12 weeks.  The goal of treatment is to dull future headache symptoms, requiring less medication and increasing a patient’s quality of life.

The FDA’s approval for use of Botox to fight migraines was based on the results of two studies involving 1,384 adults in North America and Europe.  The studies, published in the March 2010 issue of Cephalalgia, report that patients treated with Botox experienced a major decrease in the frequency of headache days.

What are the side effects of Botox?

The most common adverse reactions reported by patients being treated for chronic migraine have been neck pain.  Botulism type reactions are possible (but none have currently been reported), which are: swallowing and breathing problems.

It is important to note that the FDA says Botox does not appear to be useful in treating or preventing less frequent migraines that occur 14 days or less per month or other forms of headache.  Many insurance companies are now paying for this therapy.  It is important to see your health care provider, and be appropriately diagnosed with migraines if you think you are exhibiting these symptoms.  You can then be referred to a provider who is specially trained in this therapy.