If you’ve experience severe, throbbing head pain, a pulsing sensation with flashes of light, blind spots, or tingling on one side of your face, arms or legs, you’re likely among the 36 million Americans who experience migraine headaches. Chronic migraines—meaning you have severe headaches at least 15 days each month—is a common, potentially debilitating disorder. More than half of those who experience migraines report reduced performance at school or work, and nearly all have missed important family gatherings, social events, or celebrations due to migraines.
Thankfully, there are effective treatment options, such as prescription and over-the-counter medications. Massage therapy, acupuncture, and relaxation exercises may also help. Another powerful treatment option is Botox, which received approval from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) as a chronic migraine treatment in 2010 and is now commonly used. Using a tiny needle, Botox is injected into the muscles under the skin around the forehead, the side and back of the head, and the neck.
“Research shows that injecting Botox into these muscles causes an interruption in the pain pathways around those areas,” says John Wald, M.D., a neurologist at Henry Ford Allegiance Health. “Botox treatments can be a life changer. For many of my patients with chronic migraine headaches, Botox treatments have proven to be effective in reducing headache severity and frequency, with many of them experiencing a more than 50% reduction in severity and frequency.”
It’s important to understand that Botox is not an immediate, one-and-done solution for chronic migraine pain. It may take up to four weeks or more to notice the benefits—and multiple treatments may be needed before you experience fewer migraines. Also, most patients require ongoing treatments to manage their headaches. Talk to your healthcare provider about a plan to help prevent or reduce your migraine symptoms and improve your overall quality of life.
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John Wald, M.D., is a neurologist who sees patients at Henry Ford Allegiance Neurology in Jackson. He conducts medical research regarding the use of Botox for migraines, as well as studies related to neurotoxins in migraine and tremor. He has also studied the effectiveness and safety of an investigational drug to lower limb spasticity after stroke. Dr. Wald values educating the community through free presentations on minimizing stroke risk factors and how to recognize and respond if someone is having a stroke.