Botox is typically thought of as a treatment for aging in the face, but it now may be an effective tool to alleviate neck and back pain.
Botox has been a highly controversial drug for many years, most frequently used as a treatment for aging lines and wrinkles in the face. While its use is common among middle-aged women, there are other uses for the drug beyond cosmetic purposes. Originally approved for cervical dystonia treatment in 1989, Botox research has boomed in the last 2 decades and is now used for a number of ailments including chronic migraines, incontinence, eye spasms, and a number of muscle-related conditions.
Botox works by blocking the neurotransmitters in the brain that tell muscles to contract, preventing tension and pain. Although it has proven to be an effective treatment for chronic pain, Botox is derived from strains of botulism, a deadly form of food poisoning which paralyzes the muscles. As a result, there are risks associated with its use. For example, if the medicine trickles into areas outside of the injection site, it could cause harmful side effects, potentially fatal were it to infect organs like the lungs or heart. It could also cause a lack of motor control, loss of muscle use in various areas, or an inability to speak or swallow.
Recent Botox treatments of neck and back pain have shown promising results, but the FDA has not approved Botox for these purposes yet. Therefore, it is not likely covered by many insurance plans, although many doctors offer the treatment to patients willing to pay out-of-pocket. The drug lasts only a few months, and multiple visits for recurring injections may be necessary, significantly increasing the overall costs of this treatment. While Botox is considered safe in the hands of a skilled doctor, not all patients may be candidates for such injections. Botox is not recommended for anyone with pinched nerves, disk-related pain, or arthritis.