New guidelines published today suggest patients would benefit from Botox injections to treat chronic migraines.
In final draft guidance, health watchdog the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended doctors use the anti-wrinkle jab.
According to Dr Fayyaz Ahmed, trustee of The Migraine Trust and chair of the British Association For The Study Of Headache (BASH), Botox, known chemically as botulinum toxin type A and manufactured by Allergan, is known to bring pain relief to a high proportion of migraine sufferers.
“It’s not a first-line treatment, but if someone has tried two or three other treatments and they don’t work, this is good option. On some people it works brilliantly," Dr Ahmed told Huffpost Lifestyle.
“We’ve been working with NICE over the last two years on this project.”
A NICE spokeswoman confirmed that Botox would be recommended in the guidance as a treatment option for chronic migraine in adults whose condition has not responded to at least three prior preventative medications, and whose condition has been appropriately managed for medication overuse.
Mr Kevin Hancock of The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) told Huffpost Lifestyle he’s noticed a link between Botox injections in the forehead and relief from headaches.
“While most of my patients have their Botox for cosmetic reasons, I do have a few people who’ve told me they’ve noticed a big difference in their migraines and headaches. I’ve even got a couple of patients who come for that reason.”
Botox prevents muscle spasms and is already used to relieve certain muscular-related health conditions, such as back pain.
It is not known exactly how Botox works to bring relief to migraine sufferers, but it is thought it may block pain signals as well as being a muscle relaxant.
Chronic migraines - believed to affect 1.6% of adults - involve having headaches for at least 15 days a month over three months, eight of which are migraines.
As migraines typically affect women between the ages of 20 and 45, Hancock notes there is a small chance some individuals may pursue Botox treatment for its cosmetic benefits - rather than pain relief.
“Women aged 30-40 are a big market for Botox, but you can’t just pitch up to the doctor saying ‘I’ve got a migraine, I want Botox’. They’ll be many more hoops to jump through."
Experts estimate the cost to the NHS would be £349.40 for every 12-week cycle of treatment of Botox and NICE hopes to publish its final guidance next month.