Botox Mostly Ineffective for Headaches

Botox for migraines

Photo Nedzad Ugljesa

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that botox injection, an FDA-approved treatment for migraine and tension headaches, does not reduce the number of episodic migraines or chronic tension headaches per month, and it has little effectiveness for daily chronic headaches and chronic migraines.

The study reviewed all clinical research for Botulinum toxin A as a headache treatment from 1966 to March 15, of 2012. The review, from the University of Wisconsin and the Veteran’s Affairs, analyzed results from 24 study groups totaling 5,136 patients with chronic daily headaches, chronic migraines, or episodic migraines.

While the pooled analyses found a slight benefit for those with chronic daily headaches and chronic migraines (an average reduction of two headaches per month), botox did not reduce the number of episodic migraines or chronic tension headaches per month as compared with placebo.

The average reductions for the number of chronic daily headaches and chronic migraines were a dismal 2.06 and 2.3 per month, translating to a benefit of 6% or 7%. In many studies, this small of a benefit is considered “not significant.” This lack of significant benefit becomes increasingly glaring as the side effects are considered:

Botox comes with a number of adverse side effects. The research noted that the studies showed increases in blepharoptosis (drooping eyelids) , skin tightness, paresthesias (tingling and prickly sensations), neck stiffness, muscle weakness, and neck pain.

Other common side effects of botox injections include:

Sore throat, runny nose, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, dry or irritated eyes, anxiety, back pain, constipation, facial pain, inability to focus the eyes, increased cough, indigestion, muscle pains in the arm or legs, nausea, neck pain, redness, swelling, or tenderness at the injection site, sensitivity to light, stiff or weak muscles at or near the injection site, sweating, , flu-like symptoms, tiredness.

Shockingly, many patients also have reported worsening headaches as a result of botox injections, with some even suffering from migraines as a result of botox treatment.

Botox is made from the bacteria that cause botulism. The Botulinum toxin will block nerve transmission, which reduces muscle contraction. Botox injections are famously known for reducing facial wrinkles, but this is often accompanied by a reduction in facial muscle motion.

A number of medicinal herbs have shown to have significant usefulness for headache and migraine relief. These include meadowsweet, feverfew, willow bark and others.

In 2006, French researchers gave 12 migraine patients a 300 milligram combination of feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) and willow (Salix alba) twice a day for 12 weeks. After six weeks, average migraine frequency was reduced by 57%, and after twelve weeks, migraine frequency was reduced by 62.6% among the patients. The researchers commented that the herbal combination resulted “in not only reducing the frequency of migraine attacks but also their pain intensity.”

There were no side effects reported in the study. These two herbs have been used safely and successfully for thousands of years for among traditional medicines around the world.

Written by Case Adams, PhD


Jackson JL, Kuriyama A, Hayashino Y. Botulinum toxin A for prophylactic treatment of migraine and tension headaches in adults: a meta-analysis. JAMA. 2012 Apr 25;307(16):1736-45.

Shrivastava R, Pechadre JC, John GW. Tanacetum parthenium and Salix alba (Mig-RL) combination in migraine prophylaxis: a prospective, open-label study. Clin Drug Investig. 2006;26(5):287-96.

Case Adams is a California Naturopath with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn ones health around. As I drove home that night, I realized I needed to get this knowledge out to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.” Case connects with the elements by surfing, hiking and being a beach bum.