DUBAI // It’s usually thought of as a cosmetic treatment that can make people look younger. But now Botox injections are being used to relieve the misery of migraine sufferers.
Those with chronic neurological conditions, neck pain, muscle cramps, twitching eyelids or even excessive sweating could benefit from injections.
Doctors at the German Neuroscience Centre have used Botox on patients who may have developed a resistance to conventional medication or suffer its side effects.
Neurologist Dr Manio Maravic said: “We see many who are in need of this kind of treatment and would benefit from it, but are often not aware of those benefits.
“Many are assuming thatBotox is used only for cosmetic treatments. It is particularly useful for pain management in patients with advanced migraines.”
Although effective, Botox treatment is not cheap. Some may baulk at the average Dh1,500 cost for injections, but this can be covered by health insurance when other regular treatments are no longer reacting to the standard preventive measures.
Traditional neurological medication can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness or disorientation. These are not present with Botox treatment.
Dubai resident Anekka, 32, had been plagued by persistent headaches for about six months because of neck spasms that made it hard to sleep and focus at work. “I was taking regular pain killers but they were upsetting my stomach and were not working effectively,” she said.
“In August, I went to the doctor, who asked if I would be interested in trying an alternative treatment, When he said Botox, I was surprised, as I hadn’t heard it was used for pain management.”
The treatment worked, and Anekka has since been free from the headaches associated with the unnamed neurological condition she was diagnosed with by doctors at the German Neuroscience Centre.
“I have to go back for injections every three months, and an evaluation to see if the treatment can be reduced. It was partly covered by health insurance but I had to cover some of the costs myself,” she said.
Botox is a neurotoxin that blocks the signal between nerve and muscle, causing a paralysis of the muscle. It was initially developed to treat neurological disorders rather than cosmetic conditions, but most doctors prefer more traditional pain management methods.
Some doctors have, however, warned against using Botox in weight loss procedures, where injections are made in the stomach wall to control appetite, but insist that procedures for pain relief are safe.
Dr Caesar Zahka, a consultant neurologist at Burjeel Hospital for Advanced Surgery, recommends using Botox only when all other regular pain relief methods have failed. “Botox has been proved to be an effective source of relief but patients must be aware there can also be side effects,” he said.
Migraines are listed as the seventh highest cause of disability worldwide and recognised as the most disabling neurological condition.
“Most people simply aren’t aware that Botox can be used to treat much more than wrinkles, especially headaches and stiff muscles,” said Dr Willem van der Kamp, a Botox expert.
“More needs to be done to highlight the benefits and make people aware that help is available to them.”