Botox has become a household name (and, even, a TikTok trend) as a temporary treatment for wrinkles, crow’s feet, and other signs of aging (or what other people consider signs of temper).
In use as a cosmetic treatment for 20 years now, it is widely used in dermatological surgeries and medical spas. But Botox, the trade name for injectable botulinum toxin A (BoNT-A), also has some lesser-known uses. Shots are used to help control everything from migraines to limb spasms.
Botox for migraine
Sara Harper of Overland Park, Kansas has been afflicted with migraines for 20 years and they increased dramatically in frequency and pain level about two and a half years ago. “I was in so much pain for 20 days a month that I was willing to try anything to relieve the migraine,” the 44-year-old says.
Over the years she had tried remedies from nearly every aisle of the pharmacy.
“I’ve tried numerous treatments, mostly because my insurance would require you to try another drug before switching to Botox,” she says. “I’ve tried over-the-counter migraine medications, prescription injectables that you inject into your stomach monthly, sumatriptan, increased caffeine, gabapentin, and other triptan drugs.” (Triptans target overactive pain nerves to help quell migraines.)
But when the insurance finally gave the all-clear to her doctor 18 months ago, Harper began her quarterly visits for Botox treatment, which includes 38 injections into her face, skull, neck, shoulders and upper back every three months. months.
“Before starting Botox, my migraines were becoming major disruptions to my daily life. Since getting the botox, I’ve been almost pain-free for the entire three months except for a few days before the next round of injections,” Harper says. “It was a complete game changer; a 180 from 18 months ago.”
Botox for muscle spasms
Treatment can also be a game-changer for muscle spasms that impact everything from vision to movement.
Carrie Nash, based in Fairbanks, Alaska, says her 24-year-old daughter has had several injections throughout her life to help manage the spasticity (stiff muscles) caused by her cerebral palsy. The treatment was used most while her daughter “was still growing,” says Nash.
There are two main BoNT-A drugs used in the treatment of children with CF: Botox and Dysport. In 2018, a doctor conducting research at NewYork-Presbyterian says that children two years of age and older with CF who have been treated with BoNT-A “walk better, faster, and are less tired.”
While the drug is still an accepted treatment, there is some debate within the medical community about its long-term impact. Some of these started with a study published in 2019 in Pediatric drugs. The study found that although BoNT-A was effective in “reducing hyperactivity in muscles in children with cerebral palsy,” long-term studies were needed to monitor impacts including muscle atrophy, weakness, muscle fibrosis, and mild adverse events in some children.
Other conditions Botox deals with
Other medicinal uses for Botox include:
How Botox worksSt
In its purest form, Botox isn’t something you want to mess with — it’s deadly. The toxin is made safe and transformed into Botox by diluting it with other proteins. Think of Botox as a freezing agent, but instead of stopping movement due to extreme temperatures, the drug intercepts the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, the chemical signals from nerves that cause muscles to contract.
(That’s why cosmetic Botox is often the basis for jokes about an inability to show emotion after a treatment. Without much movement in the facial muscles, it’s harder to tell just by looking whether a person is feeling placid or irritated.)
A few things to keep in mind: Regardless of use, it can take some time to take effect and treatments need to be repeated every 3-12 months.
Botox side effects
The drug has potential side effects, some mild and some much rarer but serious. A 2020 study found that most mild side effects, including injection site bruising that occur in 11-25 percent of patients, often resolve quickly. But some people end up having allergic reactions to botulinum toxin injections, ranging from flushing to anaphylactic shock, so post-injection monitoring and caution is needed.
Overall, the medicinal effects of Botox give many patients the ability to move through daily life with much less pain or difficult conditions. Now that is life changing.
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