Botox for Migraines? A Firsthand Account of How the Drug Helped With Pain

How the injection helps headaches

By Jenna Mullins Nov 17, 2015 9:49 PMTags
E! Placeholder Image

Since my early 20s, I've suffered from migraines. For those unfamiliar with the condition, that's about a decade of headache hell.

They were always the same: a throbbing pain directly behind my left eye. Sometimes the agony debilitated me to the point where I had two options: Lie down in a dark room and hope sleep puts me out of my misery, or go get a shot in the leg from my doctor that would knock me out for 12 hours.

Then, during a consult with one of the many specialists, she suggested a new treatment that recently got approved by the FDA: Botox.

Now before you say, "Have you tried…" I'm just going to go ahead and answer that for you: YES. Exercise? Migraine pills? Change in diet? Natural remedies? Medical marijuana? Massage therapy? Chiropractic therapy? Physical therapy? Punching myself in the face in hopes I scare my migraine away? Nothing worked.

It's still unknown how exactly Botox—proverbial candy to the wrinkle-averse Hollywood set—works in decreasing migraines, but some speculate that the drug targets muscle contraction that may provoke migraines. Another possibility suggests that Botox and migraines could be related to the same brain chemical.

At this point, I was willing to try anything. If someone told me that wearing a toaster on my head was thought to help migraines, I'd be off to Target to buy the latest model. So after some research using Doctor Internet (everyone's favorite doctor!), I made an appointment with a pain management specialist. When he saw my file and realized I had, indeed, tried everything, he told me I was the perfect candidate for the Botox treatment.

A month after my first appointment, I got the all clear from my insurance company and was ready for my injections. The whole session took all of five minutes, but it was not a comfortable or easy five minutes. The Botox treatment for migraines consists of injections to seven key areas—my forehead, head, neck, back and shoulders, for a total of 31 injections. I sat in a chair in the middle of the room, got a tiny stress ball in the shape of a football to squeeze and sat still while my doctor and an assistant circled around me with a syringe. 

Did it hurt? Yes. I squeezed the hell out of that tiny foam football. But after you feel the first couple of tiny pinpricks, you then know what to expect and can prepare for the rest. For me, the shots to the side of my neck hurt the most, and sometimes I felt a stinging sensation while the Botox was injected. However, the needle is very tiny, so the pain lasts for only a moment and then it's over.

That was two weeks ago, and since then, I've only had one migraine, which is definitely a good sign. The doctor did say it could take some time to kick in, and some don't see results until the second round of injections three months later. So I'm not ready to judge the treatment fully until my second round of injections. The only side effect I've experienced is a little neck stiffness (no aesthetic changes or inability to emote, which, honestly, I was worried about), but five minutes of pain and some neck soreness, to me, is worth it for what might be a permanent solution to my migraines.