Coming off of Mental Health Awareness Month, we are now faced with Migraine & Headache Awareness Month. As you guys may know, I suffer from severe migraines. Additionally, one of our other writers, Erin Post, suffers from them. They are debilitating and something not everyone understands unless they’ve had one themselves.
As a chronic migraineur, I find it hugely important to bring awareness to this illness. Research on migraines is one of the most underfunded neurological disease researches in the country. They can affect people so badly that the individuals suffering can’t even work and have to go on permanent disability.
Mine are triggered, unfortunately, by weather changes, temperature changes, and barometric pressure changes – so, in short, I can’t control them. They also have gotten much worse since I got my severe concussion back in October; partially because of a neck injury I sustained at that time.
I personally get between 19 and 20 migraines a month. They last anywhere from 3 – 4 days, and sometimes I’ll have them for up to two weeks straight. I’ve tried pretty much everything medication-wise, and unfortunately, the only thing that works is a narcotic. I currently just completed my first Botox treatment, and I figured for Migraine Awareness Month, I would review my first-time experience.
Note: You have to continue to get Botox every 3 months in order for it to remain effective. This is just my first-time impression. Additionally, none of this is meant to be used as medical advice. Please talk to your doctor about your headaches and if Botox is right for you.
First, according to my doctor, you can only get approved for Botox if a. you suffer from 15+ headaches a month that last more than 24 hours, b. you’ve failed three abortives (Imitrex, Relpax, Maxalt, etc.), and c. you’ve failed two preventatives (anti-depressants, beta blockers, seizure medications, etc. that are prescribed off-label or for migraine prevention, not the original purpose for which they were FDA-approved).
If you meet this criteria, talk to your doctor to see if Botox is right for you. I had been so against Botox for so long, but my migraines have gotten so bad that I decided to bite the bullet and try it. It just felt weird to be getting Botox at my age.
So, the longest part of the procedure was when my doctor had to set up everything. The actual procedure was relatively short. I would say about 10 or 15 minutes, though it did feel longer. It was relatively painless, but not completely pain-free. The shots themselves were a small pinch because the needle was very, very small – the smallest my doctor said he could use for the procedure in order to ensure my comfort and to ensure I didn’t suffer from too much pain. What actually hurt, and the hurt was more of a sting than anything, was when the doctor pushed the syringe to place the Botox into my skin. Some areas stung more than others; I’m not sure why. He did my temples, my upper forehead, near my eyebrows, and in between my eyebrows. Then we had to do the back of my head and my neck. The neck part was the “grossest” for me. Why? Well, I could hear the needle going into my muscle, and the sound it made was not pleasant. It sounded almost like raw meat being ripped up, if you can recall that sound. Overall, those were the worst parts of the procedure. It’s not something so bad where I wouldn’t get the Botox again. Additionally, after doing some online research, not everyone experienced these feelings when getting the Botox.
My doctor said the worst side effect is that sometimes the Botox can leech out and cause one of your eyes to become super droopy. There is also another side effect where your neck muscles can become extremely weak, and you will be unable to hold your head up. My doctor explained to me that this usually happens when a doctor doesn’t follow the protocol for Botox administration strictly and disclosed that this occurred with another doctor in their practice who isn’t strict about following protocol.
As for me, did I suffer any side effects? Aside from soreness at the injection spots, I didn’t really suffer any of the side effects told to me by my doctor or listed on the Botox website. I really was just sore, and the soreness was only if I forgot and touched my forehead or temples. I did have one bout where I turned my neck a certain way and it was super sore, but other than that, I have felt good.
Does it work?
It is too soon for me to say whether it works since I got the Botox two days ago. However, through my research, I have seen it takes anywhere from 2 – 24 weeks to work or 1 – 2 treatments. Additionally, there is also the risk that it won’t work for you at all. Basically, if you’re not seeing any improvement with one treatment, it’s best to try another treatment, as the Botox manufacturers say it takes at least two treatments to determine efficacy.
I will say I got a very bad migraine yesterday which was a day after the Botox administration, and I am not feeling too well today. However, I have also read that people who received Botox did have these issues when they first got the Botox treatment, and then Botox started working for them.
Furthermore, Botox is the only FDA approved treatment to prevent migraines and headaches before they even start. It’s the only FDA-approved treatment for those that suffer from chronic migraines and headaches. Remember my tidbit above about how the other migraine preventatives are prescribed off-label? They aren’t FDA-approved for migraine prevention; they’ve just been found to work for migraine prevention.
What happens after the first treatment?
If you are lucky, and it works right away, it should reduce your migraines by an average of 9 per month. Note that this is an average meaning the total it reduces for you could be less or more (I’m hoping for more). Additionally, you are required to return for treatments every 3 months, which is how often insurance companies will pay for it and how often the manufacturers recommend. Other than that, after the first treatment, I would download a migraine tracker app (if you don’t have one
already), and track the frequency/intensity of your migraines so you can provide accurate information to your doctor to see if the Botox is working or if you should try something else (there are tons of things on the market, including this little Star Trek-like baby, Cefaly).
If you are thinking of Botox, please make sure you visit a neurologist or certified headache specialist. It must be administered a specific way, or the risk of side effects could be even worse and may be more likely to show up.
Again, this is just my personal experience with Botox thus far. I consulted many doctors before coming to the conclusion that Botox was something I should try. Please seek medical attention if you are suffering from chronic migraines, and you can see if Botox is right for you, or what your options are for treatment and prevention.
Additionally, if you have any questions about migraines, I am here to help – in a non-medical way. I know what it’s like to suffer, feel hopeless and unable to control when you feel sick, and have to constantly cancel plans or be afraid to make plans because you’re afraid of getting a migraine. You can also join a group I created on Facebook for equestrians that suffer from migraines.