Can Botox quell severe headaches?

Can Botox quell severe headaches?
Can Botox quell severe headaches?

The next time you have a headache, you might be better off reaching for Botox instead of Advil. A new pilot study out of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology is currently testing the effectiveness of using Botox as a treatment for cluster headaches, which the researchers dubbed "suicide headaches."

Known for their intensity, cluster headaches are chronic and can often lead to dangerous side effects, such as seizures and suicidal thoughts.

"This is the most extreme form of a headache, and the intensity of the pain is worse than what migraine patients experience," senior consultant and researcher Erling Tronvik said in the study. "I've had patients tell me that they bang their head against the wall because of the pain."

Unlike migraines, the affliction is more commonly found in men, and is difficult for doctors to treat. However, the researchers have found a possible avenue for treatment through Botox injections. According to the study, the neurotoxin's ability to halt nerve impulses could reduce the headache-triggering impulses sent to the brain. To test this, the doctors designed a pistol-like instrument that has the thickness of a knitting needle. After inserting the device through a patient's nostril, the trigger is pulled, releasing Botox into the nerves behind the sinuses.

"In theory, the connection between the two nerves in the bundle is reduced or eliminated," Tronvik said, adding that it can last for up to eight months before patients need another injection.

While the pilot study is still in the works, the Norwegian researchers are hoping that their treatment for severe headaches will be a safe non-invasive alternative to methods such as electric current paralysis, which requires an operation.

Botox's other usage and results
Over the last decade, Botox has become much more than just a way to limit the appearance of fine line and wrinkles. The injectable has become a point of interest for researchers on a variety of health issues, from overactive bladders to depression.

Although there has been less research on Botox and cluster headaches, many doctors have already begun using the injectable as a way to prevent symptoms of chronic migraines after the Federal Drug Administration approved the drug treatment in October 2010. According to the FDA, patients who have migraines for 14 or more days each month may receive multiple injections to the head and neck every 12 weeks. The Botox works to lessen the pain and debilitating symptoms of future headaches.