It’s difficult to understand the debilitating nature of cluster headaches without having experienced them firsthand. But those who suffer from the intense headaches will be the first to tell you just how painful and oftentimes unmanageable they can be.
Unlike common soreness that can be treated with over-the-counter pain medicines, cluster headaches are a much more severe form typically felt on one side of the head, and occur in groups over a period of weeks. They come in cycles, or cluster periods, that are most commonly experienced once or twice a year. While a person may not get another headache for years after a cluster period ends, the duration of the cycle could last longer than a month.
With what is described as a burning or sharp, piercing pain, cluster headaches can put a big dent in one’s daily routine. Work and regular household duties become monumental hurdles, and any enjoyment is sucked out of preferred activities such as going for dinner or simply watching TV. Not to mention the pain can physically manifest in the form of a red, watery or puffy eye, droopy eyelid or runny nose on the affected side. With all that cluster-headache sufferers have to contend with, it’s no wonder they face an increased risk of stress and depression.
Luckily, there is a strong glimmer of hope for those desperately seeking relief.
Botox has proven successful in reducing the frequency and duration of headaches in people who are otherwise debilitated by their pain. The drug was approved by Health Canada nearly five years ago for people who suffer from chronic migraines at least 15 days a month.
Since then, Botox is still being turned to as a treatment option, and may just be the answer to your headache woes. Read on to find out if it is the right fit for you:
While Botox may be most commonly associated with its cosmetic application to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, it also serves a variety of purposes in the medical realm, from preventing excessive sweating to relaxing muscles that cause spasms in the eyelids or esophagus.
Called onabotulinumtoxinA, the neurotoxin is the same substance that causes botulism if large amounts enter the bloodstream. However, in its therapeutic uses, small quantities are injected directly into muscles to harness its biological benefits.
Who Botox Can Help
Botox has been approved for adults who suffer from headaches 15 days or more per month, lasting four hours a day or longer.
With thousands of Canadians living with chronic migraines, the significance of having access to an effective treatment is immense.
Those who experience cluster headaches are particularly suitable candidates for Botox treatment, as they likely meet – or exceed – the 15-day criteria.
Some people may even have up to eight headaches a day, with the pain worsening within five to 10 minutes of onset and lasting 15 minutes or longer. They can hit at any time, often with a disabling force, and can severely impact one’s quality of life.
Speaking to your healthcare provider about symptoms and possible treatment will help determine whether Botox is the best course of action for you.
How It’s Done
Forget the lengthy hospital stay and arduous recovery. With Botox, one doesn’t have to worry about going under the knife for a complicated procedure. Instead, a qualified medical specialist injects the drug in specific muscle areas around the head and neck. The treatment can take just minutes, and doesn’t require the use of anesthesia.
Patients can most often go about their regular routine after receiving the injections, and don’t need to sport any stitches or bandaging.
Botox isn’t a permanent cure, however, and its healing effects are only felt temporarily.
Relief can last up to three months depending on the individual, before gradually diminishing.
For continual relief from headache pain, repeat treatments may be required.
Effectiveness of Botox in Treating Cluster Headaches
Botox is responsible for a tremendous improvement in patients across the country suffering from chronic headaches.
In fact, Health Canada’s initial approval of Botox for headaches was based on a clinical trial in which patients treated with the drug experienced a significantly greater decrease in the frequency and length of their of headaches in comparison to a placebo group.
The trial showed that, overall, Botox was well tolerated by the majority of treated patients and the discontinuation rate due to adverse events was low at just 3.8 per cent.
Botox has been widely regarded as an effective and safe treatment as long as it is being administered correctly by a qualified professional. However, as with any medication, speak to your healthcare provider about potential side effects before beginning treatment.
Living in pain doesn’t have to be the norm for those experiencing cluster headaches. The development of an accessible and effective treatment that is also quick and easy to administer has made a world of difference in the lives of many patients.
Botox injections can make an incurable condition manageable, which in turn helps alleviate stress and reduces the risk of depression. Patients can begin to enjoy their lives again and embrace every day stimulants such as light and noise that they previously had to shut out. Rather than anxiously awaiting the next painful headache episode, patients can finally relax into their daily lives knowing they have a reliable aid to turn to if the need arises.
If you suffer from cluster headaches, ensure to speak to your healthcare provider about Botox and whether it can be the answer to your pain problems.
About Dr. Kumar Shivdasani
Dr. Kumar Shivdasani is a medical practitioner with 25 years experience. He began his career in emergency at Vancouver General Hospital and addiction medicine – later branching into cosmetic medicine. He is the owner of CuR Laser and Skin in Vancouver, BC. Education, good lifestyle and diet changes lay the foundation for developing overall health and wellness, helping Kumar’s clients achieve and maintain their target goals. Dr. Kumar is also dedicated to helping others as shown by his support for Summits of Hope and Turning Point Recovery.