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Arthritis Health Center

Botox May Cut Knee Osteoarthritis Pain

Study Shows Injecting Botox May End or Delay Need for Joint Replacement Surgery
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How Safe Is Botox?

Safe treatments are desperately needed for people with knee osteoarthritis.

"This is an exciting new approach to knee pain due to OA," she says. "Total joint replacement has been the single greatest advance for relieving the pain of OA, but not all patients are candidates."

Some people with knee osteoarthritis are too young for the surgery and others are too old. In addition, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which are commonly taken to relieve the pain of knee osteoarthritis, are not without risks, such as gastrointestinal problems and increased risk of heart attack or stroke. There are also risks from long-term use of opioid pain killers, including risk of addiction.

The Botox treatment seems to be extremely safe, she says.

Muscle weakness can occur when Botox shots are used to treat cervical dystonia, but such effects were not seen when the toxin was injected into the knee joint. "Since we are not injecting it into the muscle, we do not see any weakness to the limb," she says. "We use a very small dose and there are no significant adverse effects due to injection."

'Intriguing Finding'

Shreyasee Amin, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., tells WebMD that "this is an intriguing finding and Botox could have a role in patients who have risk factors or contraindications to knee surgery. And if it doesn't have side effects to knee strength, it would be very helpful."

Robert L. Wortmann, MD, professor and chairman of the department of rheumatology at the University of Oklahoma in Tulsa, agrees. "It's too early to say for sure what role injections of Botox may play in knee OA," he says. "But having the possibility of something that may alter the course or pain levels for a disease to which there is no known cure is really exciting."

He adds that "if it does have a positive effect in knee OA, it will likely have an effect in hip OA as well."

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