Botulinum Toxin Injections for Painful Conditions
While Botulinum toxin, better known by the brand name Botox, may be mostly known for its use in cosmetic procedures, it has also been used as a treatment for a wide variety of painful conditions. Migraines, headaches, neck pain, back pain, hip pain and even upper leg pain can be managed with well placed Botulinum toxin injections. In many cases where the pain is caused by muscle spasm, these injections can stop the spasm at the source, allowing the affected muscle to relax and hopefully put an end to the pain.
What is Botulinum Toxin?
Botulinum toxin happens to be a purified extract of a poison found in bacteria. While botulism is synonymous with food poisoning or even death, the toxin comes from the ineffective agent and, in the small doses used in medical procedures, is perfectly safe to use. When it is injected into a muscle, it blocks the signals sent from the brain which tell the muscle to contract. When the muscles stay contracted for a long period of time, they can become very painful. The botulinum toxin helps keep the muscle relaxed for anywhere to three to six months, after which it is hoped that the muscle will be able to contract normally without spasms.
Who is Eligible for this Procedure?
Those patients that have easily identifiable trigger points, permanently contracted muscles, or headaches that are associated with muscle spasms are very good candidates for botulinum toxin injections. A trigger point is the specific spot in the muscle that starts off the pain, or ‘triggers’ it. It also is sometimes called a ‘knot’ in the muscle. This can be caused by an injury or even a degenerative condition. Most patients that have tried more conservative forms of therapy, such as pain medications, rest or stretching exercises before trying this procedure. Your doctor may opt to inject a local anaesthetic and steroid medication into the same spot to see if the pain is relieved. While the relief is temporary, the doctor will be satisfied that the botulinum toxin injection will have the same effect for a longer period.
Those patients that should consider another form of therapy include those that have a skin infection in the area that the injection should be done, have an allergy to botulinum toxin, have an illness that prevents blood from clotting, are pregnant, or have a neuromuscular transmission disorder. Patients that are suffering from pain down the arm or leg are not eligible because they are more likely suffering from a pinched nerve and this procedure is best confined to muscle spasms.
Are There Side Effects?
The amount of botulinum toxin injected into the body should be small enough to have no outward affect on the rest of the body. Some patients report feeling woozy or washed out for a weak or so after the treatment but soon get over these feelings. The effects of the treatment should last at least three months but to avoid a build up of the toxin the procedure should never be repeated within a month.