The anti-migraine jab
by JAMES CHAPMAN, Daily Mail
Everyone from film stars to housewives uses it to banish wrinkles – but now doctors have found that Botox can also cure migraines and persistent headaches.
Botulinum toxin A, which is made from a bacterium that is the most deadly poison known to man, has become popular because it can be injected to smooth out crow’s feet.
Though lethal in large doses, a purified version can be used to treat conditions where the muscles need to be relaxed.
Now a study has proved that small amounts are astonishingly effective at preventing debilitating headaches.
Doctors who gave it to patients who did not respond to normal treatments reported success rates of up to 92 per cent at the annual meeting of the American Headache Society in Seattle yesterday.
The research was triggered after women having Botox injections for cosmetic reasons reported that their headaches and migraines had also improved.
Professor Todd Troost, of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Centre in North Carolina, who has treated more than 350 headache patients with injections, said: ‘Botox is becoming one of the main preventive therapies for headache.
‘When it is effective, the need for daily medications or acute medicines for severe attacks is significantly reduced or eliminated.’
Botox partially paralyses musclesfor about three months. For headache treatment, it is injected into muscles around the eyes and forehead and sometimes the jaw.
For patients whose headaches involve the entire head, extra injections are given in the upper back of the neck and shoulders.
Professor Troost studied 134 patients with migraine, tension headaches or chronic headaches which occur more than 15 days a month.
Most had already been given at least three headache treatments without success. The patients had from one to four Botox treatments at three-month intervals and were asked to describe the results.
Overall, 84 per cent reported improvement – and among those who had four treatments, 92 per cent reported either good or excellent effects.
Professor Troost said Botox can be less expensive and have fewer side effects than many headache treatments.
The discovery could be a major breakthrough for the 6million British migraine sufferers. The condition affects 20 per cent of women and 6 per cent of men. About 5 per cent of the population has chronic daily headache.
Anne Turner, of the Migraine Action Association, said: ‘ Something that could eliminate attacks or make them so mild that they were not a problem would be a huge breakthrough. The treatments that exist are generally hit and miss.’
She added that a larger trial, of about 1,000 patients, was under way in Britain. However, some doctors and clinics already offer Botox to people with persistent headaches and migraine, she said.
Botox already appears to help tackle a number of conditions.
A recent study suggested it combats back pain, while there have been promising results from trials on children with cerebral palsy aimed at relaxing muscles to help them walk.
People with facial ticks, squints, writer’s cramp and involuntary spasms of the head and neck have also benefited.