Is Botox for Migraine Headaches Safer Than Aspirin?

Botox is famous for smoothing out wrinkles on the face. Botox for migraine headaches was officially approved by the FDA in the United States back in October 2010 to treat chronic migraines in adults.

And in October 2013, it was added to the PBS (pharmaceutical benefits scheme) in Australia.

According to Emergency Medicine Botox for migraines has reported a success rate of 75% in patients where other interventions have failed.

The doctors definition of success was a “50% reduction in the frequency, duration, and intensity of headaches”.

The qualification for chronic migraine is to experience episodes for more than 15 days of the month.

This condition varies greatly from individual to individual and affects family, work, finances and social life. As I have said before, there are more treatment options available now, more than ever in our history, and Botox for migraines is one of the latest discoveries.

Safer Than Aspirin

ABC Channel 7 News interviewed Plastic Surgeon Dr. Binder who has tested over 100 patients now and says “dose for dose ratio it’s safer than Aspirin” in this video below.

There are now numerous studies that find Botox treatment successful in treating the more chronic migraine condition. And now there are Botox injections that are considered minor migraine surgery ... ouch but with a quick recovery says Dr. John Moore of Heartland Surgical Specialty Hospital in Kansas City.

(a) The Treatment

The actual procedure sounds simple. Once you have been approved to have this course of action - here are the steps for Botox for migraine headaches:

1. The doctor will determine where to administer the injections by examining your pain sites and associated muscles in your eyes, head, neck and face.

2. Botox (Botulinum toxin type A) is then injected with a very tiny needle into the predetermined sites. There could be 17 to 31 separate injections required. Allergan Inc. - the company that makes Botox - says that when treating chronic migraine, qualified medical specialists can administer up to 31 Botox injections into seven specific head and neck sites.

3. Although the exact mechanism of Botox is unknown, it is speculated that the neurotoxin may reduce the release of neuropeptides that have an end result of the relaxing the muscles. Keep reading to learn more details on how it works below.

4. Normally no anesthesia is required; however, your doctor or specialist may choose to numb the area prior to injection. In usual cases the actual Botox treatment itself lasts minutes and not hours, and no recovery time is needed. Normally, with minimal discomfort, you can resume normal activity shortly after the treatment.

5. It may take 3 – 7 days to notice any improvement in your migraines.

6. Botox for migraine headaches needs to be repeated every 3 – 5 months.

7. The drug becomes more efficient with more applications. Yeah!

8. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid this treatment.

(b) How It Works

Botox for Migraines

What is Botox? It is the pharmaceutical company Allergan Inc's brand name for the Botulinum Toxin Type A that is produced by the bacteria clostridium botulinum.

The bacteria are normally considered harmful and life threatening inside the body (food poisoning) and can lead to muscle paralysis or weakness.

However, Botox injections into the skin are considered, at this point, quite safe especially when used in small doses and injected directly into a specific area.

Although the exact mechanism of Botox is unknown, it is currently hypothesized that the neurotoxin may reduce the release of neuropeptides (known to potentiate the migraine process) within the trigeminal vascular system by attaching itself to nerve endings.

During unimpeded muscle function, the neurotransmitter acetylcholine is released from these nerve endings causing muscle contractions. The Botox then blocks the release of acetylcholine, causing the muscle to become relaxed.

This is my interpretation of a very complex process - I hope it makes sense to you.

(c) How Long It Lasts

The FDA says that Botox, when injected at labelled doses in recommended areas, is expected to produce results lasting up to three months depending on the individual patient. Repeated treatments are showing more lasting effects.

Another source confirms that it may take 3 – 7 days to notice any improvement and the effects last for 3 – 5 months. And it has been found so far, in most cases that the more injections administered, the more efficient the drug becomes.

This sounds like exceptionally good news to me! This fact alone makes me want to try Botox for migraine headaches.

(d) Treatment Results

Botox for migraine headaches has been found successful in: reducing the need for multiple preventive medications; decreasing the frequency of triptan use; and minimizing the frequency of emergency hospital and Doctors office visits in a growing number of patients.

Medical Doctors who have been using Botox since 2000 are reporting a success rate of 75% in patients where other traditional forms of treatment have been unsuccessful. They define success as a 50% reduction in the frequency, duration, and severity of attacks. Any reduction sounds pretty good to me!

(e) Is It Safe?

When administered by Medical Doctors with specific expertise in Botox for migraine headaches, the Botox injections are considered to be quite safe. However, it is still a relatively new treatment and even here in Australia the head office of Allergan Inc., the maker of Botox, it is difficult to find a doctor who will treat me and my chronic migraines.

I just had 20 days straight, and I can tell you I am pretty much ready to try anything new to get rid of these things. I can feel pretty desperate some days. I like to stay positive, so I have booked myself in for a treatment. I will keep you posted!

Side effects

There are some additional mild and temporary side effects to consider that are associated with the actual injections themselves. These include: pain, possible swelling, bruising and tenderness associated with the injection site.

Ironically, some people experience a slight headache right after the treatment is administered and others experience nausea and flu like symptoms. A drooping eye lid seems to be a common side effect.

Always ask your Doctor for the more serious side effects that pertain to you individually. We all have different medical conditions that may effect the results.

The more I read the less skeptical I feel on the effects of Botox. Botox is a protein complex derived from a bacterium called Clostridium Botulinum. For those who do not yet know, Botox comes from the same toxin that can cause food poisoning in humans. That sounds scary, doesn’t it? The FDA says that it does not cause the same effect on the skin as it has in the body!

I have already had saline injections and I can tell you it is an easy treatment choice you should consider, if your doctor and health care provider approves. The pain is minimal and the potential benefits could be huge. It's up to you!

Two different injection strategies are used in Botox treatment for migraine headaches called “fixed-site” and “follow the pain”. Please click on the link Botox injection for migraine for more details on the strategies.

Have You Tried Botox for Migraine Headaches?

Has Botox worked for you? If it has, or if it hasn't - we need to know. Sharing will help us all.

migraine story

Botox for Migraine Headaches References:
1. (2014) Botulinum Toxin (Botox) Treatment Overview. Available at: Accessed March 6, 2015.
2. Emergency Medicine (2011) Understanding Migraine: Strategies for Prevention. Available at: Accessed June 6, 2011.
3. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2010) Botox Medication Guide. Available at: Accessed on May 31, 2011.

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With this new information, what one thing can you do now to reduce your attacks?