Why Doesn’t Botox Cure Headaches?
As biofeedback therapists, we spent many years in private practice training people with chronic migraine and tension headaches how to eliminate and prevent them. We received referrals from physicians who had exhausted what they could offer their patients who suffered from severe headaches. In their desperation, they sent them to us. We were so successful, doctors reported to us they never saw those people in their office again for headaches!
Now, we participate in several Facebook groups where people with chronic migraines and tension headaches are reaching out to each other to share what they are doing, what works, what doesn’t (there’s a lot of this). They talk about awful symptoms they are experiencing and the terrible impact headaches are having on their lives.
It pains us to read these posts because it reflects so much unnecessary suffering. When it’s been determined that there is no underlying disease process that is responsible for your headache they are no longer a medical problem.
Recently, there are many of posts regarding the use of Botox for migraines and tension headaches. Often 30 to 40 shots are given at one treatment and these need to repeat regularly because the effect wears off. And insurance is starting to deny claims for payment.
WebMD, talks about side effects and this one really impacted us.
“Neck pain and headache are the most common side effects for people who get chronic migraine headaches and use Botox.” What, the most common side effect of Botox is the very thing you are treating???
So, do you know how doctors found out Botox helps migraines? When people had Botox injections for wrinkles, they reported their migraines improved.
For clarity, Botox is a neurotoxin. It is produced by a bacteria called Clostridium Botulinums. You probably know that it can cause death if you inadvertently eat infected food. It’s a poison! It’s a problem if the toxin goes through your digestive system in large amounts.
For headaches, Botox (diluted toxin) is injected in small amounts directly in the muscles on each side of your head. Since Botox slightly paralyzes the muscles wrinkles go away. So, how does it relieve headaches? Well, we know chronic muscle tension is a factor in stimulating headaches. If that specific tension isn’t dealt with, you remain a hostage to your headaches. By paralyzing tight muscles, headaches might improve. But when you think about it, Botox is paralyzing the muscles and not really relaxing them. When the Botox wears off, the muscle tension returns and so do the headaches.
Botox is acting to inhibit muscle contractions but the habit that caused the tightness in the first place hasn’t changed. It’s still there. That’s why Botox injections have to be repeated at regular intervals. Since Botox is not diagnostic of the amount of muscle tension, doctors don’t really know how tight the muscles are in the first place. Results are not entirely predictable and can vary from person to person.
Common short time side effects are redness, soreness, swelling at the injection site, bruising, chills, fatigue, dry mouth, neck stiffness. Longer term side effects are muscle weakness, eyebrows that appear to “droop” or look uneven. (reported by Healtline)
The fact that Botox works at all, means there is a significant muscle tension component to migraine and tension headaches, a fact we agree with. However, the headaches return when the Botox wears off because it is only treating the symptom (headaches) not the cause (tight, tense muscles). How do we know this, we can measure muscle tension…with biofeedback.
Biofeedback uses special instrumentation that can monitor and evaluate the level of tension in muscles in the head, face, neck and shoulders. And, here is another fact…there are people who have significant muscle tension in those areas who don’t have headaches. But, every person with chronic headaches has abnormal tension in those muscles and when they get rid of it and learn to truly relax…headaches go away.
What if there was something that you don’t know that would prevent your headaches? It’s not medicine, it’s not an herb, it’s not massage, chiropractic or acupuncture. What if you were open to new information that just isn’t available to you right now from any of those places?
What if you were willing to consider another way to address the source of your headaches and not the symptoms?
What would your future look like then?
To learn more about why Botox is not the answer to chronic headaches download the free guide, Beyond Relief…Prevention. Questions and comments welcome here!