Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) is a neuropeptide found all over the body, says Dr. Amaal Starling, an Assistant Professor of Neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. This neuropeptide attaches to a receptor called a CGRP receptor. CGRP and its receptor are involved in numerous bodily processes—from gastrointestinal movement to the transmission of pain. Over the past few decades, there has been increasing evidence that CGRP plays a role in both migraine and cluster headache. During a migraine attack, researchers have found increased levels of CGRP in patients’ blood and saliva. They discovered migraine medications like sumatriptan reduced levels of CGRP in patients living with migraine. They also found that patients with chronic migraine—meaning 15 or more migraine days per month, eight of which either meet criteria for migraine or are treated with migraine-specific medication—had chronically elevated levels of CGRP. In addition, recent research found that giving a patient with migraine an infusion of CGRP would lead to a migraine-like attack. “All of these studies led to the hypothesis that CGRP and its receptor play a key role in migraine, as well as in cluster headache,” Dr. Starling says.
The cosmetic benefits came to light in the 1990s by happy coincidence. “The aesthetic indications were purely happenstance,” says board-certified surgeon and clinical professor Seth L. Matarasso, MD, who has been treating his clients with Botox since the 1990s but is not affiliated with the brand. “Dr. [Jean] Carruthers was working with patients with strabismus...[and] with diplopia [double vision], and her patients were coming in and saying, ‘Gee, my wrinkles are better.'" Soon enough, doctors were using Botox for what it is most commonly associated with today — nixing lines.
In the mid- to late-1990’s dermatologists were the first to report headache relief to migraineurs who were receiving BOTOX injections to reduce facial (forehead) wrinkles. Initially there was significant controversy about whether BOTOX really did help migraine patients. The use of BOTOX for treatment of tension headaches was studied and found to be no more effective than placebo. With migraines, it was more complex. In 2009 the data showed that BOTOX injected in particular areas of the head and neck in patients who met the International Classification of Headache Disorders criteria for chronic migraine provided sufficient benefit to recommend the treatment modality. In 2010, the FDA approved BOTOX for chronic migraine and recommended the protocol of injections and treatment frequency that had been successful in the studies.
Botox often gets a bad rep for leaving patients looking a little frozen, but that's the fault of bad technique, not necessarily the procedure itself, explains Day. "In many places where it's not a trained aesthetic physician doing the injection, it's really just inject by number," she says. The problem with this is that no two faces, or even two sides of a face, are the same. "That cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all approach is what often gives these treatments a bad name," says Day.
But for some conditions, step therapy can be downright harmful. In a 2016 op-ed in The Boston Globe, a patient with ulcerative colitis wrote that his health insurance forced him to try a cheaper treatment for six months, instead of the pricier meds his doctor wanted to prescribe. In those six months, his colon deteriorated so badly it had to be removed.
I love talking about migraines. I don't do it to be a downer; I do it because talking about dealing with my chronic migraines may lead to hearing tips from another fellow sufferer, and I've tried nearly everything at this point. I've dealt with migraines for almost two decades, and as anyone who deals with them knows, having a variety of remedies in your toolbox is crucial when the pain hits.
Aesthetician Mary Schook is anti-Botox because she sees the long-term effects on her clients. “Everyone is always like, ‘Look how great this looks,’ and then there is the long-term and they are like, 'Fix me,'” she says. “Allergan [the company that owns Botox] says one in 100 patients gets eyelid-drop, so I always joke, ‘I must meet one in 100 patients, because everyone I see has that drop.'”
Dubbed as the “little neurotoxin that could,” by USA Today, Botox now boasts sales of well over $1 billion for its manufacturer, Allergan. Many of us who start to see our migraine-furrowed forehead lines show up in our 30s think: hey, maybe Botox for migraine could help me too. But before you say “heck yes!” at the next Botox party or med-spa, be sure you know what you’re getting into.
Ray Chester, an attorney in Austin who has represented several plaintiffs in lawsuits against Allergan, says that just about all the cases he has handled involved off-label use of the drug. In 2014 a New York couple argued that Botox, which they chose to try off-label to treat their son's cerebral-palsy symptoms, caused life-threatening complications. The family was awarded $6.75 million by a jury. Allergan, which initially planned to appeal, ended up privately settling the case with the family, and the terms of the settlement have been kept confidential.
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In rare cases, Botox toxin can spread to areas beyond the injection site. If this happens, you may experience muscle weakness, vision changes, difficulty swallowing, and drooping eyelids. To reduce your risk of serious side effects and complications, always make sure Botox is prescribed and administered by a trained healthcare professional who has experience in using Botox.
"The difference between using a cannula and a 'needle injection' technique is cannulas are a blunt tip needle that lets us place filler on a plane that allows it to last longer," explains Goodman. "They look better and preserve the 'untouched look' we're known for. Also, it's a more advanced technique that ensures the patient will not leave the office bruised."
Study 4 included 170 patients (87 BOTOX and 83 placebo) with upper limb spasticity who were at least 6 months post-stroke. In Study 4, patients received 20 Units of BOTOX into the adductor pollicis and flexor pollicis longus (total BOTOX dose =40 Units in thumb muscles) or placebo (see Table 30). Study 5 included 109 patients with upper limb spasticity who were at least 6 months post-stroke. In Study 5, patients received 15 Units (low dose) or 20 Units (high dose) of BOTOX into the adductor pollicis and flexor pollicis longus under EMG guidance (total BOTOX low dose =30 Units, total BOTOX high dose =40 Units), or placebo (see Table 30). The duration of follow-up in Study 4 and Study 5 was 12 weeks.

Tell your doctor about all your medical conditions, including if you: have or have had bleeding problems; have plans to have surgery; had surgery on your face; weakness of forehead muscles; trouble raising your eyebrows; drooping eyelids; any other abnormal facial change; have symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI) and are being treated for urinary incontinence (symptoms of a urinary tract infection may include pain or burning with urination, frequent urination, or fever); have problems emptying your bladder on your own and are being treated for urinary incontinence; are pregnant or plan to become pregnant (it is not known if BOTOX® or BOTOX® Cosmetic can harm your unborn baby); are breastfeeding or plan to (it is not known if BOTOX® or BOTOX® Cosmetic passes into breast milk).
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