Botox may cut the number of migraine headaches in some patients.

That’s what researchers told members of the American Headache Society at their annual meeting in Philadelphia.

Botox is famous for smoothing out wrinkles. The new study shows that its effects may be more than skin deep.

The study looked at a specific group of migraine patients -- those with frequent attacks who normally would require daily preventative medications. There are about 6 million people in the U.S. with that problem, or about 2 percent of U.S. migraine patients, says researcher David Dodick, MD.

Dodick works at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz. He spoke about the study in a media teleconference.

Read Web MD's "Get the Facts about Migraines."

Botox Study

Dodick’s team studied 288 migraine sufferers. On average, they had headaches on 13.5 days of the month. They were about 42 years old; most were women.

Participants weren’t taking any medications to prevent those migraines from occurring, says Dodick.

Some patients got three treatments of Botox, spread over 11 months. The others got placebo injections.

Read Web MD's "Prevention: The Future of Migraine Therapy."

More Days Without Headaches

After 180 days, the Botox group had a bigger jump in headache-free days.

They had headaches on 7.5 days per month, on average. That’s six more headache-free days than at the study’s start.

Headache-free days also rose in the placebo group, but not as much. They had 4.5 more headache-free days per month, the researchers report.

By the study’s end, headache frequency was cut by more than half in about 52 percent of the Botox group, says Dodick.

Read Web MD's "Surgery for Migraines Looks Promising."

Side Effects

Botox was “very well tolerated,” says Dodick. Side effects were usually mild and brief. They included neck weakness and neck pain.

“Weakness is certainly a recognized side effect of Botox,” says Dodick. He says the neck pain probably came from the injections, which were mainly done in the forehead, temple, and muscles at the back of the head and neck.

Migraines can occur because of trigger points, like muscles contracting around nerves, which set off a series of events leading to migraine pain.

The treatment appears to prevent activation of a facial nerve, which is very important in migraines, he writes in a news release.

Read Web MD's "Herbal Extract May Help Prevent Migraines."

More Trials Ahead

Botox isn’t used to prevent migraines right now. More trials are slated to begin this fall and early next year.

Dodick says he hopes results from those trials will be available in late 2006 or early 2007.

By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

SOURCES: American Headache Society’s 47th Annual Scientific Meeting, Philadelphia, June 23-26, 2005. David Dodick, MD, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, Ariz. News release, American Headache Society.