How Botox® Combats Neuromuscular Disorders

Botox® has become synonymous with anti-aging treatments that rid your face of fine wrinkles and deep lines, but many don’t realize that it got its start as a remedy for crossed eyes (strabismus) in the 1970s. A series of bold experiments and discoveries led to a better understanding of how one of the most dangerous toxins in the world could benefit humans if refined and controlled.

In the wrong hands, Botox can be a deadly toxin, but in the right hands, it can be a life-altering solution to severe neurological conditions — Dr. Stanley Mathew at American Rehabilitation Medicine has the right hands. He is double-board certified and an expert in pain management, rehabilitation, and disability analysis. As an experienced physiatrist, he’s dedicated to helping his patients throughout the great Cedar Rapids, Iowa area find nonsurgical solutions to their chronic conditions.

For his patients with neuromuscular disorders, he often turns to Botox for an effective, non-opioid approach that significantly reduces and eliminates symptoms like twitching, cramping, pain, and tremors. 

The history of Botox

To understand how Botox combats neurological disorders, it helps to know a bit about its history

Early in the 19th century, a German scientist observed the neurological effects that occurred during an outbreak of botulism (food poisoning). When he saw that the bacterial toxin caused muscle weakness, trouble swallowing, eye drooping, and even paralysis, he knew there must be a clinical application.

About 70 years later, a Belgian doctor refined the toxin and broke it down into several strains, one of which we know today as botulinumtoxinA (Botox). 

Fast forward to the mid-20th century — when scientists discovered that a small amount of the toxin injected into muscle tissue blocked acetylcholine, a product of motor nerve endings, and caused muscles to relax — and you have the birth of medical use for Botox.

Finally, in 1960, a doctor applied the theory that this toxin could be used for good and injected it into a cross-eyed monkey. The ocular muscles relaxed, and the monkey’s eyes returned to their normal positions. 

It wasn’t long after that doctors began to use the toxin to help humans with the same condition, as well as with twitching eyes (blepharospasm). Then the floodgates opened, and botulinum toxin (now called Botox) became the to go-to treatment for all kinds of muscle spasms in the face, neck and shoulders (cervical dystonia), and eventually bladder, vocal chords, and other neuromuscular centers.

What’s the big deal about acetylcholine?

Everytime you take a step, grip a doorknob, or bat an eye, you can thank acetylcholine. It’s one of the chemicals produced by your nerves that transmits signals from one cell to another. Called a neurotransmitter, acetylcholine is found throughout your body and is responsible for countless functions, some voluntary (peripheral nervous system) and some involuntary (central nervous system). 

For example, if your brain sends a signal to your hand to pick up a pencil, that signal travels through your nerve fibers to a neuromuscular joint, where acetylcholine helps it jump the junction and trigger the response you want in the receiving muscle. 

If anything damages or hinders this process, you may experience dysfunctions like dystonia or spasticity. Often, the best way to override these conditions is to block the production of acetylcholine. 

Botox and dystonia

If you have a muscle or a group of muscles that are hyperactive and you can’t control them, you have dystonia. It can be caused by a traumatic injury, birth defects, or certain medications, and it can happen at any age. 

Classic symptoms are involuntary muscle contractions and twitching or twisting. Whether you have facial dystonia, foot dystonia, jaw (oromandibular dystonia), or any other type, when Dr. Mathew injects a dose of Botox into the dysfunctioning muscle, it calms the activity and stops the repetitive contractions.

Botox and spasticity

Spasticity is a condition that describes a chronically contracted muscle. It typically occurs in a voluntary muscle like your arm or leg, and is characterized by stiffness, increased muscle tone, pain, joint deformity, weakness, and abnormal posturing of the limb. People who suffer from Lou Gherig’s disease, cerebral palsy, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and other similar conditions often experience spasticity.

Botox blocks the acetylcholine neurotransmitter that makes the muscles contract, becoming so stiff you can’t use them. When the acetylcholine is neutralized, your muscles relax, allowing you to stretch them, undergo physical therapy, get pain relief, ease rigidity, and increase range of motion.

When other treatments haven’t improved the symptoms of your neuromuscular disorder, Botox may be the answer you’ve been looking for. Don’t suffer any longer. Call us at 319-369-7331 or request an appointment online today to talk with Dr. Mathew about what Botox can do for you.

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