Botox injections may be synonymous for smooth and wrinkle-free faces, but this treatment can also help people with a variety of complicated (and hard-to-treat) conditions, including some forms of chronic pain. These are the major benefits, and how it works.
What is a Botox injection?
A Botox injection is a minimally invasive injection that uses the botulinum toxin, also known as onabotulinumtoxinA, to stop the release of the neurotransmitter that causes muscles to contract. When this neurotransmitter stops, muscles are effectively “paralyzed,” becoming smooth and inactive for a period of time.
Botox is the brand name of the toxin that was isolated from the microorganism that causes botulism (food poisoning). While there are newer, botulinum-toxin containing medications used for the same conditions as Botox, they cannot be administered interchangeably. These new medications do not contain the same concentration per dosage of the botulinum toxin and may not produce similar results.
What are the benefits of Botox injections for pain?
The first use of Botox was as a medical treatment for strabismus (lazy eye). Even though the most common use of Botox injections today is to remove wrinkles and lines in the face, Botox injections have also proven to be useful for additional conditions like:
- Chronic headaches
- Chronic migraines
- Upper limb spasticity
- Lower back pain
- Excessive sweating
- Cervical dystonia
Chronic headaches and migraines
A 2016 review of studies showed evidence that Botox injections reduce headache occurrence and improve quality of life for patients.
If you suffer from chronic headaches or migraines that last for four or more hours, at least 15 days a month, you may find relief with Botox injections. Generally, these injections offer good results but need to be repeated every three months.
Upper limb spasticity (focal limb dystonia/the “yips”)
Focal limb dystonia refers to small, involuntary muscle contractions in the small muscles of the body (most frequently in the elbow, finger, and wrist muscles). Those in occupations with repetitive motions suffer most often from this condition.
In studies, 71% of patients had relief of the symptoms of focal limb dystonia with Botox injections.
Lower back pain
Back pain that does not respond to conservative treatment can be very frustrating.
Patients who would prefer to avoid surgery (or who are not good candidates) may find that Botox can relieve refractory back pain. Done in combination with other approaches, like physical therapy, this can go a long way towards relieving pain.
Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)
Hyperhidrosis isn’t simply sweating excessively in the hot sun or when exercising. Those with this condition experience excessive sweating in all types of weather and with every level of activity.
Botox injections to relieve hyperhidrosis are effective and often covered by insurance.
This painful condition occurs when muscles in the neck and shoulders contract involuntarily. It can cause the head, neck, and shoulders to twist into uncomfortable positions.
Botox injections are often a first-line treatment for releasing these contractions.
Botox injections are effective in relaxing any abnormality that results in the constriction or stiffness of muscles, tendons, joints, ligaments, and even the skin.
Patients with conditions, such as cerebral palsy and stroke-induced paralysis, with muscle contractures can also benefit. In some cases, Botox injections help improve movement and mobility by relaxing the affected muscles.
What can I expect during a Botox injection procedure?
A Botox injection is an outpatient procedure that takes less than 30 minutes from start to finish. Your appointment will typically follow these steps:
- Before the Botox injection is administered, the injection area is cleaned and sterilized
- A topical anesthetic may be applied to the skin as well, but this is not usually necessary because a very fine needle is used for the injection
- Next, two or more different regions within the muscle tissue are injected with the botulinum toxin
- The larger the affected region, the more injections your doctor may administer
You may feel the effects of the injection almost immediately, but it may take three to ten days after receiving the injection to feel relief.For most patients, the effects usually last for several months. Some people report relief that lasts for three to four months. Others experience the benefits even longer (for up to six months!).
When Botox is used to reduce wrinkles and fine lines in the face, one to two injections are usually administered. However, for chronic conditions like headaches and lower back pain, you may need several injections into the targeted region every couple of months in order to experience long-term effects.
Botox injections are generally safe. However, as with all medical procedures, there are some risks or side effects to be aware of.
Some side effects that may occur after a Botox injection include:
- Burning sensations at the injection site
- Flu-like symptoms
- Blurred vision
- Tingling in the upper extremities
- Allergic reactions (i.e., itching, rashes, and welts)
In addition, ptosis (eyelids that droop) may temporarily occur when the injections are for migraines or headaches. If the needle is not inserted into the right location, the medication may be administered to surrounding tissue. This can cause additional side effects such as a crooked smile, raised eyebrows, and excessive tearing or dry eyes.
Because anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin and ibuprofen can reduce blood clotting, stop taking those medications at least two weeks before your scheduled injection. Follow any other directions from your doctor.
In very rare cases, the botulinum toxin may spread to untargeted regions of the body. This may cause serious complications such as:
- Muscle weakness throughout the entire body
- Visual impairments
- Trouble swallowing, speaking, or breathing
- Loss of bladder control
If you experience any of these rare side effects, immediately seek medical attention.
Arizona Pain is committed to helping you get your life back with individualized treatment plans that includes a variety of approaches to ease your pain. While we do not offer Botox injections at our offices, we work closely with specialists who do and can help coordinate your comprehensive pain management plan.
Get in touch to schedule your appointment today!