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Wonder-Poison Spells Relief for Low Back Pain

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In the new study, which appears in the May 22 issue of the journal Neurology, 31 people who had low back pain for an average of six years received injections of botox or placebo injections of a salt-water solution.

Three weeks after receiving the botox injections, more than 70% of participants said the amount of pain they felt had decreased by half. By comparison, just one quarter of those who received shots of a salt-water solution reported this much relief.

And, by the study end, at eight weeks, 60% of study participants who received botox injections still said their pain was decreased by 50%, compared with 13% of those who received placebo shots.

In addition, 67% of the patients who received botox said they were better able to perform activities of daily living such as walking, lifting, and traveling, compared with 19% who got saline injections.

"Botox has a lot of potential and has been used in many different areas," says Jabbari, also a neurologist at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

"Doctors have had 12 years experience with this medication and it has very little serious side effects," he says. "You don't want to inject too much and make muscles weak, but in reasonable doses it can relieve muscle pain."

Gerard A. Sava, MD, a neurological spine surgeon in Stamford, Conn. is somewhat skeptical about the use of botox in treating back pain -- at least until he sees more study results.

"It's probably more of a placebo effect," Sava tells WebMD. "There is a huge number of causes of low back pain."

When Sava sees a patient for low back pain, he starts by taking a thorough medical history. He asks how long the patient has had the pain, if they have been injured and then asks about age and general health status.

"You have to cover all the bases," he says.

There are other modes of attack. Los Angeles-based back pain specialist William Deardorff, PhD, and co-author of Back PainRemedies for Dummies recommends a multipronged approach to the treatment of low back pain.

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