Over the past few weeks, I’ve interacted with a lot of Migraineurs who are trying Botox for the first time. I started using Botox 3 years ago and find it essential in managing my Chronic Migraines. When I first started this treatment there were a few things that I wish someone would have told me. So I thought I’d share some of my insights with all of you.
- There are 31 Injections Sites all over your scalp. That seems like a lot of needles! If you are afraid of needles, ask the nurse to use a lidocaine cream on the injection sites about 10 minutes prior to the procedure to help numb the area. I go without, but the injections in the forehead and eyebrows hurt the most. The targeted areas are standard, however if you have TMJ or neck and shoulder issues, you can request that your doctor use some of the Botox in those areas as well to provide some relief. I always try to get the doctor to give me some around my crow’s feet, but he doesn't. Hahaha!
- Give it at least 2-3 rounds of treatment before deciding whether it works for you. I’ve heard many stories of people who saw no relief after one treatment and quit. It wasn’t until my second time that I began to notice a huge difference. For some people it may take 3 tries. Just like with any new medication you start, you have to give it time to start working. Everyone is different, so don’t give up after one treatment!
- Botox can give you worse headaches and flu-like symptoms the first time. I seriously wish someone had told me that. I went into my first treatment so hopeful that Botox is going to be the magic cure and then I walk out with an immediate headache. The pain, muscle aches, nausea and fatigue lasted almost 2 weeks. I thought Botox was supposed to cure all those issues, not make it worse! When you think about it, it makes sense. Botox is a toxin being injected into your system. Your body is working hard to fight against it, so it rebels. But after a few days your body adjusts and the benefits start to kick in. The next couple of rounds of injections may give you the same reaction, but after a while it lessens as your body gets used to it. I know it doesn’t sound like fun to potentially make your symptoms worse in the short-term, but in my experience it will wear off and you’ll get relief.
- Botox has a life cycle of its own and it can wear off. Botox works to paralyze muscles and nerves to provide relief. However, it is not a permanent solution. It can take a week or so for the medicine to fully kick in. And for some people the effects start to wear off before your next scheduled injections. Some people get full relief the entire 12 weeks in between injections. Over the years, I have personally noticed that I get the most relief during weeks 3-9. By about the 10th week into my injections, it starts to wear off and the Migraines become more intense and I’m counting the days until my next appointment. And then when I get Botox it may take 2-3 weeks before I feel the full effects.
- There is financial aid available to help defray the cost of Botox. Allergan, the manufacturer of Botox, has a financial assistance program that can be used when your health insurance doesn’t cover all or some of the costs. Information can be found here.
So with the downside of potentially giving you worse headaches to start, the medication not lasting the entire time, the uncomfortable needles and lack of immediate relief, why would someone want to do this again and again? Once your body gets used to the medicine, it can have a huge impact on your quality of life. For me, it may not last the entire 12 weeks, but when it is working I am able to be much more productive and social. And every person is going to react differently to Botox. After one treatment you may get significant relief and you may never have any unpleasant side effects. It’s a personal decision and choice to try Botox, I just want to be realistic about what can happen since no one ever told me it could take time for it to start working. Be patient and communicate with your doctor as you experience any side effects.
What would you share with others who are new to Botox?
When it comes to planning vacations or other events where travel is required, how much does migraine factor into your decision-making?