On Jan 21st I had my 4th round of Botox injections for Migraine. This consisted of 34 needles into my face, head, neck and shoulders. It is normally 32, but we added one into each side of my jaw to help with my grinding at night. So far this treatment has been the only thing to make a dent in my Migraine frequency and severity. In other words, it has been a total game changer for me.
How Does Botox Help Migraine?
OnabotulinumtoxinA, or Botox as it is commonly known, is a neurotoxin that paralyses muscles and blocks transmissions between nerves. For people with Chronic Migraine, it can be used to block the neurotransmitters involved in the pain experience created by Migraine. By blocking the signals sent to and from some of the nerves in the forehead, neck, head and shoulders it can lower the frequency and severity of attacks someone with Chronic Migraine.
It can take at least 3-4 days to start seeing the effects of Botox for Migraine, and 2-3 rounds of injections (spaced 12 weeks apart) before you really notice any benefit. Studies have found 50% of people find relief after two rounds, and this increases to 70% of people by five rounds. The toxin is cleared from the body usually within 7-10 days, but the effects can last between 3-6 months.
My first round came as a bit of a surprise. I was at my neurologist’s to discuss ‘failing’ the beta blocker I tried. (It had helped a little with the attacks but made me so sleepy it wasn’t safe!) He suggested we try Botox, and the next thing I knew the injections were going in! It was a strange experience that first time because I had forgotten that my body doesn’t like needles… So we started the procedure and I woke up on the floor after I fainted! Oops…
The next day I did get a Migraine attack, and it was pretty miserable. This actually continued for two weeks and I really regretted getting the injections… That was until it lifted and everything changed. After that first period of pain, I went on to have just nine attacks in a month, and then eight the month after. This was less than half of my usual frequency! It was incredible. Botox allowed me to travel to Ireland for my sister’s wedding, see Hong Kong on the way, and really get back into working out at the gym.
Full of hope and optimism I went for round two in July. This time I lay down for the injections, and didn’t get a Migraine attack for a full week afterwards. Such a different experience! Frustratingly, that round didn’t seem to be as helpful. I was back at 22 attacks in a month after, and 21 the following month…
By the time I saw my Dr for the third round he said he was disappointed about the increase in attacks and frustrated for me. We decided to go ahead with round three anyway as round one had been so promising. Well, I don’t know why progress had taken a dive in round two but round three was amazing. Back down to single digits for frequency of attacks, and so many more days of feeling absolutely completely normal. It was amazing. This got me through a massive term of study, as well as Christmas and the new year celebrations.
Two weeks ago I had my fourth round. I’ve only had two attacks since then. The injections were still uncomfortable but I’m getting used to it now. I’m also alright with not being able to frown between my eyebrows. Other than that my face hasn’t really changed too much, although I do notice a little more eyelid droop in the first few weeks after. All in all, I’ve really had no negative side-effects and positive results from the whole experience so far!
Advice for the Anyone New to Botox
One thing I am often asked on Instagram is if I have any advice for someone considering Botox. I decided to jot down my thoughts here. Please remember all of this is just my opinion and not a substitute for medical advice!
- If you can, have someone else drive you to the first appointment. I didn’t expect to have the injections that day and didn’t consider any negative reactions. Once I fainted I had to call my husband and ask him to come and collect me!
- Ask if you can lie down if you aren’t good with needles.
- Don’t rub your face for at least a few hours after the treatment, ideally until the next day. Just let it all settle down.
- No makeup is best - mainly so you don’t have to rub your face while taking it off later in the evening!
- You may have some spots/small bruises for a few days after. Just be aware in case you have any hot dates or big events coming up. Plan in advance.
- It isn’t advisable to have Botox treatment done when you are pregnant, and you want to avoid getting pregnant for at least two weeks after you have it done.
- If you definitely want to avoid an attack after the procedure you could take something to help like an anti-inflammatory or a triptan. Always discuss this with your Dr first.
- Similarly it can help to take a painkiller before you go in, to help with the sting of having that many injections all at once.
Of course, no treatment will work for everyone, or be appropriate for everyone. You need to discuss your options with your Dr and go from there. This is simply my experience with Botox for Chronic Migraine, and I hope it might help someone who has decided to try it. If you have any questions come say hi on Instagram!