Botox Mostly Ineffective for Headaches

(Last Updated On: June 8, 2018)
Botox for migraines

Botox is injected for use in headache treatment.

Botox injections have now been used to attempt to cure headaches – especialy migraine headaches. Does it work?

Research shows botox unlikely to help headaches

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:

Side effects of botox injections

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.

What is botox?

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.

Herbal strategies for headaches

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

Do herbs help headaches?

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. A number of other herbs are helpful to relieve pain.

Other research has found that high intensity aerobic exercise helps relieve migraines in many people.

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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 in migraine prophylaxis: a prospective, open-label study. Clin Drug Investig. 2006;26(5):287-96.

Case Adams, PhD

Case Adams has a Ph.D. in Natural Health Sciences, is a California Naturopath and is Board Certified as an Alternative Medicine Practitioner, with clinical experience and diplomas in Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling, Homeopathy and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 27 books and numerous articles on print and online magazines. Contact:

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