Botox®, best known for tackling tough dynamic wrinkles and facial creases, owes its success to a serendipitous beginning.
Here, Dr. Stanley Mathew, our expert physiatrist at American Rehabilitation Medicine in Cedar Rapids and Dubuque, Iowa, offers a look back at Botox’s origins to give you a better look at its future in medicine.
The beginning of Botox
Back in the 1890s, a Belgian doctor named Émile Pierre-Marie van Ermengem treating an outbreak of food poisoning, discovered the culprit, a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum, in some contaminated ham.
Fast forward to the 1940s, when scientists led by Dr. Edward Schantz isolated the microbe for further study. It took another 30 years before they discovered some groundbreaking applications. While treating monkeys with crossed eyes (strabismus), the toxin produced by the bacterium not only corrected the lazy eye problem, it also smoothed out the wrinkles on the primate’s forehead.
Soon, doctors began injecting small, purified doses into their patients with strabismus, and those with blepharospasms (eye twitches), too. The treatment earned FDA approval in 1989. At this point, Allergan purchased the rights, licenced the toxin, and dubbed it Botox.
In 2000, Botox gained FDA approval as a treatment for cervical dystonia, a painful muscle contraction in your neck that forces you to twist your head to one side, forward, or backward.
It wasn’t until 2002 that Botox received the FDA’s green light to treat glabellar lines (the vertical creases between your brows), as well as crow’s feet and forehead wrinkles. Allergan named it Botox Cosmetic to differentiate it from its medical uses, and its popularity has skyrocketed ever since. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons estimates that almot 4.5 million opt for some form of botulinum toxin type A to smooth their facial wrinkles, but its medical applications are just as impressive.
Medical uses for Botox
Botox is right at home in the medical field, since it cut its teeth in the lab and made its debut as a medical treatment. As researchers put this toxin to the test over the years, many applications emerged, including hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), urinary incontinence, and spasticity (involuntary muscle contractions and stiffness).
Botox works by neutralizing the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in your muscles and stopping involuntary contractions. Botox also interferes with two neurotransmitters that cause pain and inflammation, namely substance P and glutamine.
Not all neuromuscular disorders are painful; some are merely annoying (twitches), some limit mobility and function (tremors and dystonia), and others are life-threatening (those that affect your central nervous system).
When you experience chronic pain, Botox may be the solution that calms the nerves and stops them sending messages to your brain. Here are just a few of the many chronic pain conditions Botox may alleviate:
- Headaches (tension, migraine, medication overuse)
- TMJ syndrome
- Joint pain
- Lower back pain
- Knee pain
- Shoulder pain
- Post-surgical pain
Whether you’ve been injured in an auto accident, suffer from diseases such as multiple sclerosis, have constantly achy joints, had a stroke, or any other similar problems, the ongoing pain may get in the way of your full recovery.
Dr. Mathew treats these conditions with Botox to give you much-needed relief that allows you to participate in physical therapy and other treatments.
To find out if Botox can alleviate your chronic pain, schedule a consultation with Dr. Mathew — book online, or call our friendly staff at either location today.