Botox Treating Chronic Migraine Headaches

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If you've ever suffered a migraine, you know it can be debilitating.

For most prescription medications offer relief. However, for the 3.1 million Americans who have chronic migraine headaches, medication doesn't always work.

So, they're turning to alternative treatment at The Texas Brain and Spine Institute in Bryan.

Two women we talked to say it has changed their lives, but is it the solution for everybody?

Every three months Glenda Sommerfield lies down for a treatment she calls life saving.

She drives from Brenham to Bryan for the procedure that's painful for someone afraid of needles. But to Glenda it's worth it.

For ten years she's suffered from chronic migraine headaches.

"You just can't function because you can't think straight because you are hurting," Sommerfield said.

So, she found this miracle in a tiny vial.

You may know Botox as the drug that helps smooth facial wrinkles, but in 2010 the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug for the treatment of chronic migraines.

Botox is a neuro toxin that compromises muscle activity and the capacity to transmit pain.

"The average patient that will be a candidate for Botox will be an individual who has 15 headache days or more a month, the headaches will last four hours in duration, and they are missing out on life," Kimberly Oas said.

Oas, a St. Joseph Nurse Practitioner, administers the Botox. 31 injections are given to patients in areas including the forehead, temples, the back of the head and shoulders.

"This is a very reasonable and usually effective solution," Oas said.

But it may not work for everyone. In fact last month the Journal of the American Medical Association released results of a new study.

Research found among chronic sufferers, who had 15 migraine headaches a month or more, Botox prevented on average about two headaches.

Glenda says she used to get 20 headaches a month and one could last for a couple of days. Now they are few and far between.

"I don't have all the down time I used to have," Sommerfield said. "I have me time now to do things."

Fellow patient Nancy Blanco says Botox has offered hope.

"There was a time I had a migraine for two weeks straight. It never stopped," Blanco said.

Nancy says she would get a migraine every day. While prescription medications and other preventative treatments didn't work, Botox did.

"I was just used to having them that it took me awhile to figure out what was happening," Blanco said. "This was something different. I was expecting it to come at any moment. I was just waiting. Ok it's going to happen, but it didn't."

Nancy now gets about four migraines in a three month period, compared to daily.

"I feel like I got my life back," Blanco said.

Both of these women say ordinary things in life turned extraordinary when a migraine struck. Now they want to make sure others that qualify find the same relief.

Botox costs nearly $1,000 for a single dose used in chronic migraine patients, but injections can be covered by some insurance. Patients get the treatment every three months.