Botox isn’t just for smoothing the wrinkles in the face anymore. In fact, Botox has been FDA approved to treat painful and deforming back and neck conditions for many years, yet many patients, and even doctors, have not been aware of the freeing effects Botox has on muscle spasms, deformity and even spasticity caused by stroke and spinal cord injuries. OACM’s physical medicine and pain management specialist, Michael DeMarco, D.O., physiatrist, has been using Botox to treat these conditions for years and was specially-trained in this agent’s neurologic benefits while training at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
“Botulinum toxin is a very unique treatment. No pill does what this biologic agent does,” says Dr. DeMarco. “We know through experience that Botox is an excellent therapy for treating the muscles that are causing spasticity and for improving conditions of the neck and spine that cause deformity and pain.”
What Is Botox?
Botox is a form of botulinum toxin type A, or a neurotoxin that works by blocking chemicals that make muscles tight. Typically known as a cosmetic treatment for smoothing wrinkles and fine lines in the face, Botox is also used to relax muscles and treat uncontrolled spasms caused by a number of conditions including cervical dystonia and torticollis. Botox is also effective in relaxing the muscles for stroke or spinal cord injury patients whose muscles can spasm uncontrollably.
Effective Treatment for Cervical Dystonia
Cervical dystonia is a condition where the muscles in the neck tighten and spasm, causing painful head turning, stiffness, and distorted posture. Botox has been FDA approved for treating cervical dystonia since 2000. Dr. Demarco explains that treating a female patient in her early 60s with Botox for this debilitating condition has resulted in a restored quality of life due to a significant reduction in muscle stiffness and neck pain.
“Cervical dystonia is a painful condition that often interferes with simple daily living activities and also has a profound psychosocial impact on people,” explains Dr. DeMarco. “After treating my patient with Botox injections she experienced significant relaxation of the neck muscles after just one injection. After her second injection, she had about 75% improvement in her stiffness, pain, and posture, and was just thrilled to have her quality of life back.”
Utilizing his extensive training with this biologic agent, Dr. DeMarco uses EMG or ultrasound guidance to isolate certain muscles while avoiding others. This precise injection of Botox targets the spastic muscles for optimal relief. He adds that patients often begin to experience relief from spasticity within several days following the first injection and the effects of each injection can last from three to five months. Repeated treatments are usually necessary to sustain the effects, but this need may decrease with time as the muscle spasms or injury improves or changes.
Botox Treatment For Stroke and Spinal Cord Injury Patients
Dr. DeMarco also uses Botox to treat limb pain, severe muscle spasticity, and deformity after a patient has suffered a stroke or spinal cord injury. Following stroke, for example, many patients experience muscle spasticity and tightness of muscles, particularly in the arms and hands, making even simple daily activities like getting dressed or eating very difficult. When spasticity occurs, muscles remain tight and can cause pain, deformity and even uncontrollable movements and tremors. A number of studies on Botox and stroke patients have shown that even a small dose of Botox injected directly into the muscles in spasm relaxes the muscles and helps restore function, mobility and reduces a patient’s pain.
Patients can learn more about Botox treatment for cervical dystonia and muscle spasticity following stroke or spinal cord injury by making an appointment with Dr. DeMarco at OACM. Call (410) 644-1880 or toll free: (855) 463-2663.