Spasticity is nearly always bothersome and sometimes painful. Daily movements can become nearly impossible and muscle spasms can disrupt sleep. With little movement and poor sleeping conditions, spasticity begins to affect the overall physical and mental health of an individual.
The first line of defense for spasticity is regularly stretching, exercising and rehabilitation. When spasticity affects only a few muscles, injections of botulinum toxin (BT) have been found helpful.
BT, commonly known as brand name Botox®, is a medication derived from a neurotoxin made by bacteria. This toxin is purified and can be used safely to treat spasticity in different muscle groups. BT works by blocking a nerve impulse. Usually, the brain sends messages to the muscles so they can contract and move, but BT impedes part of that process. It blocks the chemical signal between nerves and muscles, which carries the message from the brain and activates muscles. Since BT blocks these chemicals, the muscle doesn’t spasm. This provides relief from pain and muscle stiffness.
BT is given as an injection into the muscle during an outpatient visit. There are no activity restrictions after a patient receives an injection, but the effect isn’t usually felt until a few days after the injection. Relief from spasticity symptoms by BT generally lasts between two and six months, so most injections are repeated every three months. To maximize the benefits of BT, physicians also recommend supplemental physical or occupational therapy
Using BT for spasticity has a number of benefits. It is usually effective in relaxing the injected muscles, provides a stable effect for several months, is usually well tolerated and improves range of motion. BT also shows a significantly improved gait pattern in patients, greater ease in stretching and tolerance of braces, and also a possible delay of surgery.
For those suffering with spasticity and trying to take part in normal, everyday activities, BT is an option to help you get there.
Dr. Amanda Price earned her medical degree at Boston University School of Medicine and started as a physiatrist at Freeman NeuroSpine in September 2017. A physiatrist is a physician who reduces pain and restores function lost due to illness or injury and treats a wide variety of medical conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons. Dr. Price is part of a team that specializes in spinal care services for patients. For specialized spinal care services, call 417.347.7200.