Botox® was recently approved by the FDA to help patients with chronic migraine headaches. This move promises to be a significant help to the approximately 3,000,000 Americans suffering from chronic migraines.
Migraines are a group of brain-related symptoms, including severe headaches and nausea as well as temporary vision, muscle, or numbness problems. It is well documented that this is a debilitating condition for many people. In fact, a certain subset of individuals with migraines experiences them more than half of the days in a month, leading to a diagnosis of “chronic migraines.”
The World Health Organization states that migraines are the 19th most debilitating disease and that a day with a severe migraine can be more debilitating than paralysis, arthritis or even blindness.
In this recent FDA approval, the clinical study revealed that Botox® reduced the hours spent in a chronic migraine from 30-35%. The results of this study offer hope to migraine sufferers who are desperately seeking help to relieve or eliminate pain in their lives.
How Botox® Helps Migraines
As often occurs in medicine, the initial discovery of a use for a medication occurs unintentionally. In this case, I and many of my colleagues noticed that those patients we treated with Botox® for cosmetic reasons reported a decrease in headaches. In my practice, this worked for those with both migraine and tension headaches.
I’ve had a number of patients travel to see me from as far away as California because of the positive effect treatment had on their appearance as well as the relief it provided for their migraine headaches.
Botox® works for those with migraines, because it is injected into multiple points around the forehead, neck and shoulders—primary spots for pain during headaches and migraines. It affects the communication between nerves and the structures to which the nerves are connected. These nerves connect to muscles, so when used to treat facial lines Botox® prevents the nerves from communicating with specific muscles, allowing the muscle to relax and the lines to improve.
Think of the process like a phone connected to the phone jack with a cord. When the cord is disconnected from the phone, the phone can’t ring. Botox® works the same way as it prevents the nerve from communicating with the tissue it’s meant to communicate with.
In terms of headaches, it’s not yet fully understood but it is believed that the Botox® interrupts the communication between pain receptors and the brain, reducing the perception of pain.
Additionally, it relaxes muscle tension, which reduces stress on the nervous system, thereby indirectly helping migraine headaches.
Although the FDA indication was regarding Botox® use for chronic migraines, in my experience it can help two of the three most common headaches, migraines and tension headaches.
The Many Benefits of Botox®
In addition to the new FDA-approved use for chronic migraines, Botox® has a number of other approved uses, including:
- Strabismus or crossed eyes
- Blepharospams and Hemifacial Spasms
- Cervical Dystonia
- Glabellar lines
The initial use for Botox® was for children with crossed eyes. It was known then as Oculinum and was thought of as an orphan drug—they didn’t know exactly what to do with it.
Then, they began using Botox® to treat people suffering from facial spasms in the form of Blepharospams and Hemi-Facial Spasms.
It was a wonder drug for those suffering with these conditions. It was through experiences with these patients that we began to hear about Botox’s® more well-known effect: Smoothing facial wrinkles.
Patients were telling us they liked the Botox® because it helped their facial spasm conditions and also made their facial lines appear smoother.
Thus, began the off-label use of Botox® for facial wrinkles until the FDA approved it for lines between the brows in 2002.
Botox® also has several non-FDA-approved uses, including:
- Breast lift
- Changing the corners of the mouth
- Relaxing bands in the neck
- Treating crows feet and forehead lines
- Dimpled chin
- Enlarged prostate
- Vocal cord spasms (Spastic Dysphonia)
- Overactive bladder
- TMJ and narrowing the jaw
- Cerebral Palsy spasms
- Multiple Sclerosis spasms
- Achalasia of the esophagus
- Foot pain and bunions
- and many more
When I provide Botox® cosmetically and train other medical professionals in its use, I treat beyond the obvious relaxed frown and smile lines. I like to change the balance of the face, so patients can achieve a more beautiful, yet natural, facial appearance.
Dr. Scheiner is a laser eyelid and facial cosmetic surgeon in Tampa, Florida, offering expert Botox treatments. He is one of only a handful of physicians in the U.S. chosen by the manufacturer of Botox Cosmetics to train other physicians in its safe and effective use. For more information about Botox Tampa, and other treatments to restore and reveal your natural beauty, Contact Our Office.