It may surprise you to learn that Botox® has medical applications, but once you learn its history, you’ll see why it's such a powerful treatment, whether you’re looking to smooth the lines on your face or stop chronic pain.
Dr. Stanley Mathew, our triple-board-certified physiatrist at American Rehabilitation Center in Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, and Anamosa, Iowa, explains Botox’s origins and how he uses it to treat four painful medical conditions.
How Botox got its start
After a tragic incident of food poisoning in Belgium in the 1800s, scientists researched the pork products causing many illnesses and deaths. They discovered the culprit — Clostridium botulinum. This rod-shaped bacterium thrives in undercooked meats and poorly processed canned goods, causing food poisoning called botulism. The symptoms include drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing, and respiratory failure.
Scientists discovered that the bacterium could be fatal in large doses, but in small, purified doses, its paralytic effects could be useful. In the 1960s, researchers found that an injection of the botulinum toxin effectively reduced symptoms of strabismus (crossed eyes) and eye spasms.
The medical community continued to research and refine the applications of the toxin long before manufacturers began to market it for its cosmetic uses in 2002.
Medical uses for Botox
Although paralysis from illness or injury is tragic, sometimes, a little paralysis can be a good thing. Medical researchers have harnessed the power of Clostridium botulinum and created one of the most effective treatments for several medical conditions — Botox. Here are four ways Dr. Mathew incorporates Botox into his comprehensive services.
1. Botox for spasticity
Damage to your brain or spinal cord can lead to muscle spasticity, whether congenital or caused by acute injury or illness. Spasticity symptoms range from mild-to-severe stiffness to painful spasms as the muscles involuntarily contract and remain rigid.
The most common spasticity causes are cerebral palsy, stroke, and multiple sclerosis, but it can also stem from a tumor, aneurysm, hypoxia, or brain and spinal cord trauma.
Botox works by blocking the signals between your nerves and muscles, stopping the contractions and relaxing your muscles. By relieving muscle stiffness, Botox can:
- Help you stand
- Improve your gait
- Make wearing braces easier
- Increase range of motion
- Reduce pain
Although oral medications are also effective, they can’t target specific nerves and muscles like Botox can.
2. Botox for dystonia
Dystonia is a neuromuscular disorder that causes tremors and involuntary muscle movements. It often begins with a mild, almost imperceptible twitch in a single muscle group, such as your hand, eyelid, or neck. For some, it worsens with increased stress and becomes more noticeable over time. Common types of dystonia include:
- Cervical (neck) dystonia: head jerks and neck twisting
- Oromandibular (tongue) dystonia: slurred speech and trouble chewing
- Laryngeal (voice box) dystonia: trembling or whispering voice
- Hand dystonia: spasms occur during repetitive motions, such as writing
- Foot dystonia: a dragging or slapping foot
Botox relaxes the muscles and allows them to function normally without spasms.
3. Botox for migraine disease
Migraine disease affects an astonishing 148 million people worldwide, and 39 million of them live here in the United States. Each attack is unique and excruciatingly painful. According to the American Migraine Foundation, up to 5% of the American population experiences 15 or more migraine attacks each month, making it a chronic condition.
The underlying cause of migraine disease is unknown, and the potential attack triggers are many and varied, so treatment can be tricky. In addition to avoiding known triggers, Botox can reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks.
Dr. Mathew uses an ultra-thin needle to inject Botox into strategic areas of your face, neck, and head. Researchers believe that the toxin interferes with neurotransmitters that send pain signals to your brain.
4. Botox for pain
Botox offers a nonsurgical solution to treatment-resistant pain conditions by blocking pain signals between your nerves and your brain. Like spasticity and dystonia, Botox injections for chronic pain relax muscle fibers and release tension. Dr. Mathew may recommend Botox for:
- Arthritis pain
- Chronic back pain
- Muscle spasms
- Chronic neck pain
- Tension headaches
Botox provides quick and lasting relief and allows you to reduce medication and its systemic effects.
To find out if Botox can quell your pain, contact us today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Mathew.