If you’re someone who suffers from migraines or other forms of chronic headache, you’ve probably tried all sort of treatments to prevent that familiar and debilitating pain from taking hold.
Studies have shown that migraine affects over 3 million Australians and it is thought that more women suffer migraine than men due to hormonal factors.
According to Migraine and Headache Australia, a migraine is a neurological disorder that causes a one-sided throbbing or pulsating headache that is at least moderately intense and can be aggravated by physical activity.
Research into treating migraine and other types of chronic headache with muscle relaxants has shown that it can be surprisingly effective as a preventative. Despite migraine being a brain disorder and not a disorder of muscles, studies have shown that during a migraine attack muscles are in fact very contracted. It is thought that muscle relaxing injections work by easing those tight muscles.
Many clinical research studies have been done into the use of botulinum toxin to treat chronic headache. Several areas can be targeted, depending on the root cause of your particular headache. These may include treating the forehead, the temples, the frown complex, the muscles at the back of the head, as well as the upper back and neck muscles.
A tiny needle is used to perform the injections, so it is not overly painful. You may experience a brief burning sensation at each site of injection, but this is very brief, and the procedure is generally very well tolerated. There is no down time at all, and most people return to their daily activities immediately following the appointment.
It’s not uncommon for the effects of the treatment to kick in a week following the procedure, however many people experience some relief within a few days. Some patients require two or even three treatments to obtain relief from their symptoms. However, if no improvement is noted after this time, then these patients are unlikely to be suitable for ongoing treatments.
Botulinum toxin is very safe and there are no major or harmful long term side effects. Occasionally there might be some neck pain or stiffness following a treatment as surrounding muscles try and compensate for the muscles that have been treated and are now relaxed. If this were to happen, it resolves within a few days to weeks, and an anti-inflammatory might be beneficial.
Treatments last 3 to 4 months, so a treatment schedule of 3 to 4 times a year is recommended. In practice, after several treatments patients will improve to the point where the treatment can be discontinued without relapse to chronic headache.