‘I tried Botox as a cure for migraines and this is what I found’

Having been in chronic pain with migraine since aged 11, it’s a subject fascinating to me – much as I wish it wasn’t.

Botox as therapy has come up before – I’m an expert on possible solutions. But whilst the NHS can offer multisite scalp injections of botulinum toxin as a treatment to people with headache on more than 15 days per month, it has never been offered as an option to me. Despite falling into that category.

I had my botox administered to me by Miss Elizabeth D Hawkes FRCOphth, who is a Consultant Ophthalmologist and Oculoplastic Surgeon.

“Botox is a last resort treatment,” says Dr Elizabeth to explain when she would recommend botox for migraines.

The search for a cure for my migraines has seen me visit – neurologists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, osteopaths, and chronic pain clinics to try out their treatment plans.

I’ve had spells of taking daily pills prescribed by specialists to prevent them, and daily pills prescribed by homeopaths.

I felt I was firmly in “last resort”.

Dr Elizabeth explains the ways that it is different to cosmetic Botox.

She says: “Botox for migraines is a bit different. Botox works at neuromuscular junction – between nerve and muscle – simply put, it’s believed it works at that site to help with the pain stimulus. So it has NICE approval. But it is not always given.”

NICE recommends Botox for preventing headaches in adults who have chronic migraine – more than 15 per month – whose condition has not responded to taking at least three prior preventative medications, and has been appropriately managed for medication overuse.

Dr Elizabeth explains how it is different to Botox injections for cosmetic reasons.

“You treat the whole scalp, the back of the neck, back of the head, and round the side of head – you wouldn’t normally treat those areas for lines, which would usually be frown, forehead and around eyes and chin and lips."

It takes a couple of weeks to take effect. I also had a side effect and felt that my eyebrows were being pushed down.

Dr Elizabeth explained to me that this was because of the difference between cosmetic treatment and my treatment for migraines.

She says: “If it was pure cosmetic it wouldn't feel like that. But the reason it did was because I put more injections on the head and scalp. That’s why it feels a bit heavier.”

I also felt a bit flu-like and achy for a few days. “When you have Botox for the first time, you can feel a little bit run down. It won’t happen a second time,” explained Dr Elizabeth.

Two weeks later I realised that I hadn’t had a migraine all that time. Then I got one – but it came after a sports massage which can sometimes trigger them.

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It’s now six weeks on and I can say that my migraines have become more like nagging headaches.

“This isn’t a cure but it can decrease the frequency and severity of migraine and it’s worth a try,” says Dr Elizabeth.

“You could consider keeping it up every three months – or you may want to go back to migraine specialists as you potentially could be eligible for it on the NHS.”

Migraines are a neurological mystery – even for the professionals. But as an expert patient, here’s what I think. It feels like the muscular strain around my shoulders and at the top of my spine is no longer there and that means when I get migraines, it’s less painful and lasts less time.

It’s recommended that you have another session three months apart.

I tell Elizabeth that this is something I would like to do. She asks if I’ve enjoyed the freshening up of my 48 year old forehead as a happy byproduct of the Botox.

I reply that it’s funny that it doesn't have as much effect as I thought it would have. She laughs “you can have more next time…”

A cure for migraines and my wrinkles then…


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