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For more than 20 years, botulinum toxin injections such as Botox have been used cosmetically for treating lines and wrinkles in adult patients. This includes moderate to severe glabellar lines associated with procerus or corrugator muscle activity, forehead lines related to frontalis muscle activity, and lateral canthal lines (otherwise known as crow's feet). Apart from Botox, many doctors are opting for other botulinum toxin brands, such as Xeomin and Dysport (which are similar but not interchangeable).
Clinically, botulinum toxin injections are prescribed for the treatment of spasticity related to or spinal injuries cerebral palsy, overactive bladder, blepharospasm secondary to dystonia, urinary incontinence (dur to detrusor overactivity related to neurologic diseases e.g. multiple sclerosis) and cervical dystonia. Additionally, they are effective in treating of hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), including craniofacial hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating of the face and the scalp and head), palmoplanter hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating of the palms of the hands and soles of the feet) and axillary hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating in the armpits).
Botulinum toxin is also prescribed off label to treat conditions such as acne, TMJ, and vaginismus. Recently, researchers have been studying the use of botulinum toxin for numerous potential clinical and aesthetic indications, including hypersecretion of glands, dyssynergic or excessive muscle contraction and conditions related to pain. The findings from preliminary studies are promising and have gained attention from the scientific community.
On a cellular level, botulinum toxin A is able to inhibit the release of acetylcholine (ACh) from the presynaptic nerve terminals at the neuromuscular junctions. This subsequently prevents the muscles from contracting. At the same time, botulinum toxin chemically denervates the parasympathetic postganglionic cholinergic fibers. This makes it effective in the treatment of hypersalivation and hyperhidrosis. Plus, botulinum toxin has shown promising results in treating medical conditions such as anal fissures, bruxism, and myokymia.
At first, it was thought that muscle hyperactivity contributed to the pain relief. However, animal studies have suggested otherwise, indicating the presence of a direct analgesic action. A number of clinical trials have shown positive results for the management of pain-related conditions with botulinum toxin, although further investigation is needed.
Pain relief is a secondary outcome of botulinum toxin. This suggests that botulinum toxin solutions like Botox may directly affect the pain mechanism. The pain-relieving mechanism appears to be independent of the neuromuscular actions, which are currently utilized for a wide range of aesthetic and clinical uses. The discovery of the pain-relieving properties of botulinum toxin has led to new emerging indications, including the treatment for chronic lower back pain, neuropathic pain, myofascial pain and headaches. Based on current evidence, botulinum toxin seems to interrupt the spasm-pain cycle and selectively weaken painful muscles. The analgesic effect of botulinum toxin was discovered after significant pain reduction was observed in cervical dystonia treatment.
Botox is often used off-label to treat various conditions. Doctors world-wide have used this toxin, and other toxin brands such as Dysport, to treat pain-related conditions experienced by patients. When considering whether botulinum toxin injections might be right for you, always speak to a medical professional. A licensed injector will look at your medical history and discuss possible treatment options that fit within your expectations and budget.