Botox injections for chronic headaches

Read this Q&A article to learn more from UConn Health experts Dr. Bernardo Rodrigues, director of the Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Center; and Elaine Cournean, APRN, director of the Supportive Care and Planning Clinic who is a botox specialist.

Chronic migraines can be debilitating and significantly affect the quality of life of those affected. But in recent years botulinum toxin injections (known by the brand name Botox) have reduced the number of headache days for many people who found little relief from other treatment options.

Dr. Bernardo Rodrigues of UConn Health and Elaine Cornean, APRN, explain how the injections can help chronic migraineurs and who could benefit from this treatment.

Q. How do botox injections help with migraines, and how do you know if someone is a candidate for receiving them?

Botox blocks messages from the nerve to the muscle, causing temporary muscle relaxation. Although no one understands exactly why botox helps with migraines, it was FDA approved in 2010 and is considered safe and effective for treating chronic migraines. A good candidate is someone who is at least 18 years old and has chronic migraines with headaches at least 15 days per month that other treatment options have not been able to successfully control.

Q. How is the treatment?

Chronic migraine treatment is a quick and easy outpatient procedure. No anesthesia is required and there are no post-procedure restrictions. The provider uses fine needle injections that target the areas most commonly affected by headaches, such as the forehead, temples, back of the head, neck and shoulders. The total visit time is about 15 minutes. Botox treatment is repeated every three months and patients have an average of eight to nine fewer headache days per month than before treatment. You don’t need to change your current medication before the procedure and you can get botox injections in addition to other headache treatments.

Q. If someone thinks botox could help with their migraines, how can they get treated?

If you are diagnosed with a chronic migraine that is not well under control with your medication and you still have 15 or more headache days per month, you can ask your neurologist or GP to refer you to our UConn Health Botox Clinic. If you don’t have a confirmed diagnosis of chronic migraines, the first thing you should do is see a neurologist. We can help you find a headache specialist here at UConn Health.

The UConn Health Botulinum Toxin Clinic treats patients with neurological diseases such as dystonia, spasticity, salivation and chronic migraines. The clinic has several providers dedicated to the use of botox for neurological disorders. To learn more, visit s.uconn.edu/botoxclinic or call 860-679-4888.

This article appeared in the spring issue of the UConn Health Journal. Read the full issue online.

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