We all know of Botox as the anti-aging injection people get to rid themselves of wrinkles. Yet this extract of botulism is now becoming popular in another field: pain management.
Botox has the ability to relieve muscle tension; it blocks a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine that makes muscles contract. A study published in the journal Neurology and summarized at WebMD.com showed Botox to halve the intensity of chronic back pain in 60% of patients after an eight-week period.
Back pain can result from many different factors. If a vertebra is out of place, Botox will not likely help. If the pain is caused by chronic muscle tension, spasm and trigger points, however, Botox may be a relevant treatment.
Trigger points are tender and usually small knots in the tissue surrounding muscles called myofascia. The hard knots can refer pain to other parts of the body by impinging nerves around them. A back massager maybe less invasive..
Botox injections can relax tense muscles and loosen trigger points. This interrupts the pain and spasm cycle for a period of time up to 6 months.
TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) units are sometimes used to relieve back pain caused by spastic muscles. Electrodes are placed on the affected area and electrical impulses are supplied to block pain signals from nerve paths. This does not solve the cause of the pain, but simply blocks the pain signal from being sent.
Botox may serve a larger purpose than just masking symptoms. Although the initial relief provided by a Botox injection may only last 1 to 6 months, the toxin could eventually retrain muscles to be loose and elastic rather than tense. Muscle memory is developed by the brain to allow the body to perform certain tasks automatically; once an action has been done several times, the muscles involved will continue to perform them without conscious thought or effort. While this is handy when it comes to playing an instrument or dancing, it can turn muscle tension into a chronic situation. Forcing the muscles to relax using Botox can retrain muscle memory.
While there is enough scientific reasoning and anecdotal evidence to support the efficacy of Botox injections in treating muscle-related back pain, there is reason to be hesitant. Injections are far more invasive than treatments like massage therapy. Trigger point massage was developed to break up trigger points and restore elasticity to muscles and myofascia. Injections should only be sought as a last resort.
For more information on trigger points, refer to TriggerPointMaps.com. This site provides an interactive map to help you locate trigger points you may have and explain referred pain that may originate from them.