Chronic pain can be an annoying problem that can pretty much take over a person’s life. It does not matter where the pain is, the fact that it gets worse on activity and can even disrupt a person’s sleep means it can become the reason why people develop a low mood, perform poorly at work and have difficulty managing normal daily activities at home.
There have been significant advances in chronic pain management over the last decade or two. These days, there are pain specialists who offer specialized pain treatments that help manage chronic pain. Botulinum toxin has been explored as an option in chronic pain management, and in this article we shall take a look at whether this management strategy actually helps patients with chronic back pain or not.
How Botox® works
Many of you have heard of celebrities getting Botox® injections to get rid of fine lines and wrinkles on their face. While cosmetic use of Botox® is popular, what many do not know is that Botox® also helps treat muscles spasms in conditions such as spastic disorders, blepharospasm and even cerebral palsy, to name but a few. It works by acting on the nerve fibers and blocks the conduction of nerve signals that are transmitted through them to the muscles, thus helping to relax the muscles.
Botox® for chronic pain
Given this function of blocking nerve fibres, one could assume that Botox® would be extremely useful in blocking the flow of pain signals through nerves. In fact, a handful of studies have now confirmed their benefit in managing patients with chronic neck pain. The effect was more pronounced when combined with physical therapy. This combination works because Botox® relaxes the muscles and physical therapy helps increase the flexibility of the muscles, thus reducing pain.
In addition to this, Botox® presents itself as a safer option as it is performed by licensed medical practitioners and is not associated with the side effects that oral medication can bring with them.
So now that we have seen that Botox® can actually help reduce pain, why is it not offered as a first line treatment to patients with chronic pain?
Well, the reasons are a few.
Firstly, the cost. Botox is a lot more expensive than regular painkillers that can help patients with chronic back pain. These must be tried first before considering Botox® injections. Secondly, the available evidence supporting its use in chronic pain is still limited, and more studies are most certainly warranted before considering Botox® as a first line treatment option in patients with chronic pain. Thirdly, Botox® requires an expert to inject it into the muscle, and this facility may not necessarily be available locally to all patients. Travelling the country trying to find the right specialist can be quite an expensive venture. Finally, Botox® as a painkiller is still not approved by the FDA, though its application in the cosmetic world is.
As is clearly seen, there is some evidence supporting its use, but a lot of factors to consider whether or not it should be used.
Botox® is an effective muscle relaxant that may benefit patients with chronic pain. However, more studies need to be conducted into its benefits and additional cost factors may not make it the most viable option available.
Botox is a trademark of Allergan Inc.;