Migraine Headaches: A New Long-term Treatment

Fall 2000 CSANews Issue 36  |  Posted date : Mar 06, 2007.Back to list

People living with migraine headaches know how truly devastating this condition can be. The ominous feeling of the attack coming is a scary reminder of what's ahead in the day or days to come. Recurrent attacks of severe pain, usually on one side of the head, visual disturbances, sensitivity to light, nausea and dizziness characterize the condition. The pain is believed to be associated with intense vasoconstriction, followed by prolonged dilation of blood vessels leading to, and within, the brain. Treatments for migraines have ranged from morphine-based painkillers to acupuncture and everything in between.

A surprising new procedure has proven to be extremely successful in treating migraines, almost by mistake.

Physicians at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology (AAO) in September of 1999, received first-hand research information from Dr. William J. Binder on the astounding effects of Botox injections on migraine headaches.

Dr. Binder noted that the use of Botox injections relaxed the smaller facial muscles and, surprisingly, had positive side effects on his patients who had suffered from migraines and severe headaches. After completing the cosmetic treatments, some patients reported no migraines for up to six months. After seeing these preliminary results, a new, larger research project was launched.

Botox injections have been used for years to cosmetically treat wrinkling of the skin around the eyes, forehead, neck and frown lines. The purified form of Botulinum toxin also works well in treating many other muscular disabilities, such as dystonia and cerebral palsy. The main purpose of Botox is to decrease neuromuscular signaling, which means it reduces the amount of flexing that muscles do in a given time period. Cosmetically, it relaxes the muscles around the face which, in turn, reduces the amount of wrinkles created by the contracting of small facial muscles.

A case study involving 97 patients showed that injecting Botox into specific regions of the face and head area gave migraine relief to 82 per cent of the patients. Fifty per cent of those showed complete improvement, which lasted for up to six months. The only negative side effect noted was initial minor pain near the injection sites. The results were truly leading-edge science, since conventional migraine medication acts for only a few hours.

The injections are proving to be a breakthrough in migraine treatment. The process has now been used by thousands of people suffering from this debilitating condition. The treatments are still classified as cosmetic and, as such, are not covered by health plans in Canada or the U.S. With more research projects, like the one completed by Dr. Binder, this could change very soon.

If you suffer from regular migraine headaches, you should ask your doctor about Botox injections. The success rate appears high, and a few less wrinkles is a rather pleasant side effect to enjoy.