Muscle relaxant injections (commonly known as Botox and Dysport) have numerous benefits. There are many non-cosmetic procedures that deliver great results. In fact – the cosmetic benefit was only realised when people being treated medically (for facial muscle spasms) noticed an improvement in their wrinkles.
How Do Muscle Relaxants Work?
Muscle relaxants block the signal from the nerve to the muscles. As a result, the injected muscle can no longer contract as forcefully, which causes muscles to relax.
Although muscle relaxant injections are best known for cosmetic purposes (softening wrinkles), they have in fact been used in clinical practice to help treat many medical conditions …..for over 20 years.
The injections can reduce specific muscle activity by blocking the overactive nerve impulses that trigger excessive muscle contractions or glandular activity.
Eyelid Spasms (Blepharospasm)
Involuntary eyelid spasms is known as Blepharospasm. The muscles of the eyelids can twitch uncontrollably often causing rapid blinking of the eye. This can be a serious condition that affects eyesight and the ability to perform everyday tasks. In severe cases patients have lost the ability to open their eyelids entirely. In 1989 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Botox for the treatment of blepharospasm and other eye muscle disorders (for sufferers aged 12yrs and above). It was later approved in Australia, by the drug regulatory agency – the TGA (The Therapeutic Goods Administration).
The specialist doctors treating blepharospasm are:- ophthalmologists, neurologists, neuro-ophthalmologists, and oculoplastic surgeons.
Cervical Dystonia (Neck & Shoulder SPASM & pain)
Cervical dystonia (CD) is a condition that causes the muscles in the neck to tighten or spasm without control. This usually leads to abnormal head position and pain. Botox is approved for CD sufferers who are 16 years and older.
Muscle relaxants have been approved to help treat ‘chronic’ debilitating migraine headaches in adults over 18yrs of age. Injections can reduce the pain (which often causes nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light). Treatment does not always alleviate these symptoms immediately, and multiple treatments might be needed for some sufferers.
Botox is approved for people who have tried other options such as pelvic floor exercises and medications without success.
The muscle relaxant works by calming the nerves – that can overstimulate the bladder muscles and lead to an urgent feeling of needing to urinate. Treatment can reduce (and even eliminate) the frequency of urination and also the probability of incontinence.
Firstly a doctor will carry out a number of tests to check that it is a suitable treatment.
EXCESSIVE underarm SWEATING (Hyperhidrosis)
This medical condition causes excessive underarm sweating. It can occur without the usual triggers of exercise, heat or stress and often leads to embarrassment and social anxiety. Muscle relaxants are a proven treatment for this condition, as (when injected) it interrupts the release of the chemical that signals the sweat glands. This can significantly reduce sweating and can last for several months.
Bruxism is the medical term for unconscious teeth clenching and grinding, either while awake or asleep. This can lead to dental problems, jaw pain, headaches, other facial pain, and even migraines. Dental problems from bruxism include lose of tooth enamel and increased tooth sensitivity. Hypertrophy of the masseter (jaw) muscle can lead to the appearance of a severe square jaw. Treatments with muscle relaxants can provide tremendous relief from jaw soreness, headaches, and other unpleasant problems associated with Bruxism. Muscle relaxant treatments for Bruxism can also soften the appearance of the jaw line.
Upper and lower limb MUSCLE SPASTICITY (Focal Spasticity)
This is a condition where certain muscles in the upper or lower limb become stiff or tight. It is caused by damage to parts of the central nervous system that control voluntary movements. When this happens, overactive nerves send messages to certain muscles telling them to continuously contract, or tighten. This can lead to debilitating stiffness. It can affect the upper limbs (elbows, wrists, or even fingers) or the lower limbs (eg calves, ankle and toe). While not life threatening, muscle spasticity can have a serious impact on a person’s physical capabilities and their quality of life. This condition usually occurs in cases of serious brain or spinal cord injury, stroke, cerebral palsy, or multiple sclerosis.
Ideally, children receiving treatment should have access to a multidisciplinary team of specialists, so other interventions for spasticity can be considered. The largest group of children receiving botulinum toxin type A for spasticity are those with cerebral palsy. Lower Limb Spasticity is a common problem for these children due to stiff calf muscles (which make it hard for the ankle to flex). As a result, feet often point down and in. This is called equinus foot deformity, and it is why children with lower limb spasticity often walk on their toes.
Treatment with muscle relaxants can help manage the condition and lessen symptoms.
A multidisciplinary Medical team will work together to treat spasticity can include; Doctors, Nurses, Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists etc.
Bell’s Palsy is a sudden loss of movement (acute facial paralysis) of half of the face. While it usually has a good long term prognosis, it can significantly impact a patient’s quality of life during the recovery phase. Bell’s Palsy can cause: Severe asymmetry of the face, difficulty speaking, drooling, inability to close one eye, and an asymmetrical smile. Muscle relaxants can assists with sufferers facial symmetry. By relaxing areas of the non effected side of the face.
Muscle relaxants have also been shown to be of clinical benefit for patients with Parkinson’s disease (by reducing jaw tremor and excess salivation). It has been used to relieve sensory and motor symptoms associated with tics and Tourette’s syndrome.
Are Botox injections safe?
Botox injections are generally safe when administered by a medical professional (Registered Nurse or Doctor) who is trained in its use. As with all treatments, there are some potential side effects, however most of these are mild and temporary. Pain, tenderness and bruising may be associated with the injection, and some people have reported a slight headache after treatment.
Muscle relaxant injections should not be used in women who are pregnant or breast feeding.
It’s important to remember that that all medical procedures carry risks as well as benefits, and you need to discuss these with your doctor.
Whether Botox is used for medical or cosmetic purposes, It’s effects wear off after a few months.