When many of us hear the word “Botox,” we call to mind images of well-off, mature, white ladies who may or may not have lost the ability to express emotions using their faces. But the truth is, Botox doesn’t just serve cosmetic purposes—there are plenty of therapeutic uses for it, too.
According to Dr. Ilan Danan, a physician and sports neurologist at the Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, California, botulinum toxin A is used in a wide variety of clinical settings for therapeutic benefit and relief.
The toxin can be injected into humans in extremely small concentrations and works by preventing signals typically released by nerve cells from reaching muscles, weakening the muscle in the process, Danan explains.
“In order for a muscle to contract, nerves release a neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine at the junction where the nerve cell meets the muscle cell,” he explains. “Acetylcholine attaches to receptors on the muscle cells and causes the muscle cells to contract or shorten. Administration of botulinum toxin results in a decrease in contraction of the muscle cells, allowing muscles to become less stiff.”
Ahead, seven therapeutic uses for Botox—because it can do a whole lot more than smooth out wrinkles.
Originally posted on SheKnows.
Botox can be used to treat strabismus (the scientific term for crossed eyes) and blepharospasm (uncontrolled blinking of the eye), Dr. Medhat Mikhael, a pain management specialist and medical director of the nonoperative program at the Spine Health Center at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, explains.
No, your doctor isn't going to offer you Botox if you've had a few minor headaches, but for those with chronic migraine—defined as a headache lasting greater than 15 days per month for more than three months—it may be an option, Danan says.
As Mikhael explains, "The toxin causes neuromuscular blocking effect at the neuromuscular junction. That causes the muscles to relax and become temporarily and partially paralyzed, and that has a great therapeutic effect."
Muscle Stiffness & Spasms
Muscle stiffness and chronic spasms, like those caused by spinal cord injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and other demyelinating and musculoskeletal disorders, can be treated with Botox, Mikhael and Danan note.
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Botox injections are a way of treating overactive bladder, Mikhael says.
If we've learned one thing about Botox so far, it's that it's good at calming muscles that are spasming or having difficulty with a full range of motion. That's also the case with movement disorders like dystonia and torticollis, for which Botox is commonly used as a treatment, Mikhael says.
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Cervical dystonia, the most common type of focal dystonia, is characterized by involuntary, oftentimes painful contractions of the cervical muscles resulting in abnormal head postures and movements, Mikhael says, adding that Botox can be used to treat it.