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How Does Botox Treat Migraines?

Migraines, for those who are unfortunate enough to have them, can leave you drained. Not only are they painful, but the sensitivity to light and sound can leave you immobile for hours. The throbbing and pulsing pain is rarely helped by conventional medications and time usually does the trick to help it go away. Over the counter pain medication may be effective to some extent, but that does not stop the migraines from coming back. Chronic migraines are classified as occurring 15 days a month – imagine having to suffer through that! This is where Botox treatment comes in.

Botox is derived from clostridium botulinum, which is a bacterium that causes paralysis. Having been commonly used to remove wrinkles and make you look younger, Botox benefits extend further than just cosmetics! For those suffering with hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), Botox can help treat it.

As for pain management and migraines, Botox injections can prevent chronic migraines for up to three to twelve months! That’s a long time. The FDA approved this treatment on October 15, 2010 and it has been very effective! The way this works is that the Botox is injected into seven areas of the head and neck, for a total of 31 injections. Neurologists inject Botox in the front and back of the head and neck in a symmetrical pattern. These injections are repeated over an
interval of twelve weeks to a year. However, this treatment is effective for chronic migraines; if you have migraines that aren’t as frequent, this won’t help very much.

Of course, the main question is – is this safe? Very!In fact, the side effects themselves are very mild. They include neck pain, discomfort or pain at the injection site (which should be a given), tiredness, and maybe blurred vision. All in all, these side effects are really mild and they pale in comparison to the excruciating pain and discomfort caused by migraines. Possible contraindications (reasons why you cannot take Botox) include myasthenia gravis – a disorder that leaves your muscles susceptible to fatigue and weakness. Because Botox is derived from the bacterium that causes paralysis (botulism), the most severe side effects would be
difficulty breathing, generalized muscle weakness, and loss of bladder control.

So how does this work? Truthfully, researchers are not yet sure of how Botox is so effective
in treating chronic migraines, but there are theories. Contrary to popular belief, it does not relieve and prevent chronic migraine pains through relaxing muscles. Instead, it has been found to target certain pain stimulating chemicals called peripheral nociceptive neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are thought to be responsible for migraine headaches as well as lower back pain. Botox is an effective and safe treatment for chronic migraines. With mild side effects (if any) and four or less treatments per year, you can’t go wrong!

Gary Starkman Dr. Starkman, a top Neurologist in NYC, is the Medical Director and founder of New York Neurology Associates. He is Board Certified in Neurology with a subspecialty certification in Pain Medicine.

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