I first heard of Botox as a preventative migraine treatment the summer before my junior year in college. I had tried numerous preventative medications, a 5 day infusion treatment in hospital, and lidocaine injections. None of these options provided any significant improvement, so my doctor suggested Botox.
What is Botox?
Botox is made of a bacteria called Clostridium botulinum type A, and is an FDA approved treatment for those with chronic migraine. Botox is administered every 12 weeks, and consists of 31 injections across your forehead, temples, back of the head, back of the neck, and shoulders. Some say that the injections barely hurt, I personally think they hurt like a b*tch, but everybody is different (I also have a pretty high pain tolerance). I have also noticed that different areas hurt more than others. The temples I barely feel, but those to my forehead and my shoulders hurt significantly more.
How Much Does it Cost?
Botox costs $525 per vial (100 units), and a typical migraine dose is 155 units. I have had coverage for my Botox treatments through my parent’s insurance, and then later through my work insurance. However, there is a separate Botox deductible that must be met, so you will end up paying for at least some of your treatments. As well as this, your doctor will most likely charge a fee for the administration of Botox. I strongly advise checking with your doctor and your insurance company to find out the exact costs once all is considered. I also recommend researching savings cards, because some pharmaceutical companies offer those.
How Does it Treat Migraine Disorder?
Botox works in a complex way to reduce Migraine attacks and pain related to these attacks. The neurotoxin acts like a roadblock for pain by preventing pain signals from getting to your nerve endings. It also works to paralyze muscles and make them less sensitive to pain by preventing them from contracting.
What are the Side Effects?
As with any medication, Botox has potential side effects. The main ones include difficulty swallowing or breathing, headache, neck pain, injection site pain, muscle spasms or stiffness. Personally, I tend to experience a tired feeling, my forehead feels heavy, and my neck sometimes feels a bit stiff or sore. Overall though, I have not yet experienced anything severe.
I started the process of applying for approval through my insurance that summer. One important thing to note, is that Botox approval goes through the individual doctor. I started getting approval for my doctor where my mom lived, and where I was staying for the summer. However, approval didn’t come through until after I had left for my next semester of college. I then had to go through the process of getting the treatment transferred, so that I could be treated by my doctor in the city where I attended college.
Botox can take 2 or 3 trials before you experience results, although some see results in just a few weeks. I had about 3 or 4 treatments before I felt like Botox was not helping me. I was still experiencing a constant daily headache, and I had about 3 migraines a week. I decided to stop treatment. Within a month, I was up to a migraine almost everyday. My daily headache also increased 2 points on the pain scale. I was missing a lot of class, and was bedridden most days. My doctor and I sat down, and realized that while Botox was not the “cure” for me that it was for many others, it was still helping me. I decided to continue my Botox treatment.
Now, I am sure I cannot live without it. In the 2-3 weeks before I am due for my next injection, I experience migraines almost everyday. I also have a lot of icepick headaches, which are short, intense pangs of pain that feel like a hot icepick is being shoved into your skull- hence the name. Botox definitely helps lower my daily pain level, and I am essentially bedridden everyday without it.
I want to advise that there are a lot of reasons that you should carefully consider whether or not Botox is right for you. It’s expensive, potentially dangerous (like most medication), and can be painful to inject. However, if you’ve tried other medications to no avail, it’s definitely a treatment I would recommend discussing with your doctor.
I hope this helped answer some questions for you about what Botox for Chronic migraines is like. Let me know if you have any questions below, and be sure to check out some of my other posts if you have the time!