The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Danville News

June 18, 2014

Migraine sufferers find relief in Botox

DANVILLE — Chronic migraine sufferers have found an unlikely treatment that can take away their pain for weeks at a time — Botox.

The chemical, commonly used as an anti-wrinkle treatment, has recently been found to be a surprisingly effective migraine cure, according to Dr. Nancy Kelly, director of headache care at Geisinger Medical Center.

“If I have a patient respond to Botox they can be pain free for two and a half months at a time before they go for the next round of Botox,” she said. The strength of the treatment surprised Kelly, as the research which led to its approval for headaches by the FDA suggested that it wouldn’t last that long.

The treatment can be done once every three months, which means that some patients may have to deal with migraines for a week or two until they can get their next Botox injection. Many migraine patients treated with Botox have told Kelly they now have their life back.

“It’s really quite wonderful that there’s something for people who didn’t have anything before,” she said.

Botox is designed to prevent muscles from contracting, which is what led doctors to consider using it for migraines.

“It was thought that perhaps those areas in the head where the muscles are tense during migraines … if you could keep those muscles from being tense, that would go a long way to decrease the frequency of headaches,” Kelly said.

Injection spots are usually in the muscles in the back of the head or the shoulder area. The treatment was approved by the FDA a little over three years ago.

To qualify for the Botox treatment, a migraine patient usually needs to fail at least three other medications.

Some patients complain of weakness in their shoulders or have difficulty holding their arms above their heads following the treatment, Kelly said. Others report a funny feeling when they swallow, although they have no difficulty swallowing. Patients who receive the injection in their forehead sometimes complain about their eyebrows being uneven afterwards. Some migraine sufferers will not respond to the treatment, Kelly said, depending on whether the patient has “episodic” or “chronic” migraines.

The treatment works on chronic migraines, defined as headaches that occur more than 15 days a month, last more than four hours at a time and have side effects such as light and sound sensitivity and nausea.

The Botox treatment does not seem to work on episodic migraine patients, who have migraines for less than 15 days a month. This is the first distinction in treatment between the two migraine categories that Kelly has heard of.

“We don’t’ know for sure, but there seems to be something physiologically different,” she said.

Email comments to rstoneback@thedanvillenews.com.

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