If you’re my friend on Facebook, you’re probably aware that I’ve had Botox done.
No, not cosmetic Botox. I had Botox for migraine.
See, I’ve dealt with migraine since I was in kindergarten, and I’ve had chronic migraine for at least five or six years. I also have chronic daily headaches, which is surprising to many people because like, a migraine is a bad headache, right?
WRONG. Migraine is actually a neurological condition. What most of us consider “a migraine” is actually a migraine attack. Consider this: you wouldn’t see someone having a seizure and say they were having “an epilepsy.” Like epilepsy, migraine is a condition with many symptoms— and one of them happens to be a headache.
Now, I’ve tried just about every medication out there for my chronic migraine. When I failed many of the standard treatments, a scary offer was put forth. I could have Botox injections.
I am not a doctor, and this is not medical advice. Botox should always be discussed with your medical provider, because it can have serious side effects. This is not intended to replace your doctor’s advice. This is merely my personal experience.
Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move on.
Botox for migraine consists of 31 injections in your face, scalp, neck, and shoulders. These injections are onabotulinumtoxin, a neurotoxin. The Botox temporarily paralyzed muscles in your face and neck, which for some reason helps many migraine patients find (some) relief.
To differentiate between a headache and migraine, consider a headache you’ve had, and ask yourself whether you’d be willing to be injected 31 times in the head with a neurotoxin . For most types of headaches, the answer would be no.
When I finally worked up the nerve to try it out, I realized that I had no idea what to expect. Many of my friends didn’t either. That’s when I got the bright idea to live-blog my Botox experience. So I did.
This is me at Starbucks before the procedure. At this point, I was severely regretting taking an 8:30 appointment. That is way too early to get a bunch of needles stabbed in your face.
My headache specialist also gets chronic migraine and uses Botox to treat it, so I felt extremely comfortable with her. I had a pretty bad headache before I got the Botox, and the injections can cause a temporary increase in headache. My headache specialist gave me a shot of Toradol to hopefully prevent that, and allowed us to turn off the lights in the exam room. She used natural light from the window to do my injections, much to the chagrin of the nurse helping her.
Intwrestingly, my headache specialist also had a bad migraine attack that day. It was rainy.
Immedoately post-Botox I looked as if I had run afoul of some bees. I knew while getting the injections that my face would look rough. Although I found most of the shots bearable, the ones around my eyebrow were so painful that we had to take a momentary break. That’s also where I had the most swelling.
By the time I made it to the lobby, the swelling had started to go down. I made appointments for 3, 6, and 9 months out, because Botox needs to be repeated every 12 weeks.
By the time I made it to the car, the swelling wasn’t very noticeable. A few people mentioned that I looked tired, but most people didn’t seem to realize I’d even had 31 shots in the face and neck.
Unfortunately, the Botox caused a migraine flare for about 72 hours. I had a really intense headache, increased photo sensitivity, and some nausea. Initially, I had felt some immediate relief in my back and shoulders thanks to a phenomenon that my doctor explained as “when you stick a needle in a tight muscle, it loosens.” That side effect wore off unfortunately quickly as I waited for the Botox to kick in, which takes 3 to 7 days.
Botox is also used cosmetically, and many people are surprised to learn that it can affect your appearance even when used for Migraine. My headache specialist had me wiggle and contort my face before injections to help reduce any potential changes caused by Botox.
Unfortunately, as the Botox started to kick in, I noticed that one of my eyelids began to droop, and one eyebrow migrated skyward.
Either the droop went away within a few weeks or I stopped noticing it, but my eyebrow arch remained changed for the whole 12 weeks. This wasn’t a big deal to me, but if it had been, my headache specialist could have altered where she put the injections to keep it from happening again. There was a weird feeling of having to work hard to use my eyebrows, and that lasted most of the 12 weeks as well.
96 hours post-migraine, I woke up with a headache, as is common for me. Despite a stressful day, it took around 6 hours for the headache to transform into a migraine.
One week post-Botox, I shared this photo and this caption:
One week post Botox! It’s definitely kicked in now. My forehead feels tight when I try to use it, and my brows are slightly different. The injection sites around my forehead are no longer visible. However, one of my eyes is really baggy now. I’m going to talk to my specialist about adjusting where we do the injections next time so maybe that won’t happen. For now though? I’m in for three months of looking like my eye has both under-eye and above-eye bags.
I’ve had two of the worst migraine attacks I’ve had in ages in the week since Botox. That could also be attributed to being stressed, because WHEW BUDDY has it been a year! Even if Botox isn’t effective during the first round, which it often isn’t, my headache specialist apparently badgered Aetna enough that they JUST sent a letter agreeing to pay for a year of Botox on a trial basis! 🎉
I’ve been open about this treatment because there’s a lot of misconceptions about what migraine is and how it’s treated. It’s not just a bad headache, it’s a neurological disorder. It has a multitude of sucky symptoms: my mouth tastes like metal, I get vertigo, I smell phantom cigarette smoke, I get nauseated, and I see purple spots. That’s barely scraping the surface. Migraine even causes lesions on the brain— I have three so far. Migraine attacks can be triggered by hormone changes, weather changes, fluorescent lights, high tyramine foods, and pretty much anything. I’ve had migraine since I was a kid, and I was officially diagnosed in sixth grade. I’ve tried about a million different medications, diets, and more.
Did you know there aren’t any medications specifically made to prevent migraine attacks? The first one is coming out NEXT YEAR! It’s 2018, people! Migraines were first recorded around 3000 B.C. That’s a long time without proper treatment.
Since I shared that, I’ve been able to have several open and honest conversations about Botox for migraine with other Botox patients. Although it doesn’t work for everyone, I personally experienced 24 fewer headaches in the 12 weeks following Botox than my previous average. That’s pretty impressive! Part of it is also due to lifestyle changes and other medications I take, but that’s 24 fewer headaches nonetheless.
If you are considering Botox for migraine, I recommend finding a practitioner who is skilled in its usage. I love my doctor because both she and her primary nurse have chronic migraine and use Botox as part of their treatment, which makes me feel more confident in their opinions. Be sure to do your research, talk to your doctor, and make sure you have the right doctor for the job— a friend shared her experiences with me, and only one doctor has been able to provide her with migraine relief using Botox, though she’s seen several. Some medical conditions may make Botox ineffective or dangerous, so you’ll want to make sure your doctor is familiar with your medical history.
I’ve actually had my second round of Botox injections now, and I’m looking forward to sharing the results with you!