Its ability to cut the connection between muscle and brain is what gives Botox its cosmetic capability, but this same receptor-blocking property can alleviate serious and debilitating muscular conditions. Perhaps Botox provides the most physical relief in the treatment of muscle spasm. Muscle spasms can occur in isolation, as the result of injury or interrupted blood flow, or they can be a by-product of a systemic problem like Multiple Sclerosis or neurological disorders which manifest in spasticity. In many instances psychical therapy post-injection will enhance the effect of Botox and increase blood flow, promoting healing and flexibility and sometimes eliminating the need for further treatment. In other cases repeated injections are required. Here we take a look at the different types of muscle spasm Botox can address and the circumstances where this treatment is appropriate.
Cervical dystonia – or spasmodic torticollis – is when the neck and head is forced into painful positions by involuntary muscle contractions, or spasms. The head can be near permanently turned to one side or tilted up or down, and is sometimes accompanied by a jerking movement. Further complications include bone spurs and muscle contractions spreading beyond the neck to the jaw and arms. Usually beginning in middle age, Cervical Dystonia is more common in women and is a recurrent condition with some periods of remission. The specific cause is unknown but genetics appear to be a factor and head, neck and shoulder injuries are thought to play a part. The spasming muscles are identified by the contorted position of the neck or else pinpointed by an electromyography machine – and the injection are administered. The strength of these particular muscles means a chronic spasm can be difficult to overcome, so regular targeted Botox treatment provides significant relief.
Spasticity is when a muscle group experiences either severe stiffness or overactivity, causing pain, fatigue and limited movement. Muscle over-activity, or spasming, occurs when disease or injury confuses brain messages, impairing movement and coordination. Botox works by relaxing the over-strained muscles, providing relief and allowing a three to four month window when physical therapy can be used to exercise joints and lengthen muscles. This can drastically improve mobility and areas of functionality like grip. Because Botox must be injected into each individual muscle – and the body has a limited tolerance to the toxin – only certain areas can be treated at one time, so Botox is usually incorporated into a wider care plan.
Botox has been approved for the treatment of muscle spasms related to Multiple Sclerosis. Localised muscle relaxation is considered safe in lower limbs and often used to ease tension in finger, wrist and elbow muscles as well as ankles and toes. Stiffness and spasticity can be eased on an short-term, ongoing basis and injections are administered every three months. Side effects are watched for carefully in this instance due to increased risk of breathing difficulties and muscle weakness.