by Kelly Harrigan
More and more people are turning to Botox for migraine and headache relief. Botox has been popular in the cosmetic arena as the magic wand for wrinkles but, in 2010, following years of clinical research, Botox was approved by the FDA for treatment of migraines or headaches that occur fifteen or more days a month.
Botox is a highly diluted strain of botulinum toxin that is purified and then injected into nerve trigger sites. Botox blocks a chemical release in muscle cells that tell your muscles to contract. Temporarily relaxing the muscles so the nerve isn’t compressed prevents muscle contractions that set off migraines and headaches. The injections are often done in the forehead, temples, back of the head, and sometimes in the neck and shoulders.
Seems like a slam dunk. Do I get a shot?
Ohhh, because needles … yes, needles are involved, unfortunately. If you have a needle aversion use this time to practice some guided meditation or deep breathing.
Your physician will use antiseptic wipes to clean the injection sites before using a fine needle for the injections. You may feel tiny pinpricks but the good news is that it’s over within a few minutes. Although not instantaneous, some improvement may occur during your first session but most gains are felt in the second or third treatments with relief lasting about three months. The number of injections, specific sites, and the number of months between treatments will depend upon your unique situation and how well your pain responds to treatment.
Let’s ask the most important question: will I get sick from botulism?
Remember, the toxin has been highly diluted and purified before it is injected. Most people tolerate treatment well. Ironically, though, you might have a slight head- or neckache after the injections. An ice pack often provides relief for the discomfort.
One note of caution: less is more in this case. The skinny on this is that fewer injections mean it is less likely that an occurrence of Weebles-wobble head, flu-like symptoms, or other side effects will be noticed, allowing you to see any improvement without the interference of side effects, especially if you are sensitive to medication. You should discuss all potential side effects with your doctor before treatment and pay close attention to how you feel in the weeks following treatment. Report any side effects to your physician immediately.
Pain free is worth any price …
Let’s chat about what this means to your wallet. Your total may be a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, as the recommended FDA dosage may cost between $300-600, and the number of units you need will depend on your individual treatment. In this case, you don’t want the year-end clearance sale, you want a doctor with experience using Botox, whether that doctor is a neurologist or another kind of physician, so shop around and be choosy. You’re worth it.
Botox may be considered a non-standard treatment, and although it’s becoming more mainstream, it may or may not be covered by insurance, so bite the bullet, make the time to call your insurance company to see if they cover Botox, and what pre-authorization or referrals are needed. There may be so many other hoops to jump through you may think it’s March Madness, so have a detailed conversation with your insurance company to be sure you understand what you need to do before your Botox treatments.
Return on Investment Time
After doing your research, assessing the frequency and intensity of your headaches, determining insurance coverage and out of pocket expenses, finding an experienced physician, you can do your own cost-benefit analysis to see if Botox is right for you.
Kelly is a single mum, veteran, TBI survivor with a girl child and a frenchie, oolong tea in hand and humor on hand, who lives in Annapolis, Maryland.