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Wonder-Poison Spells Relief for Low Back Pain

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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.

"If ... the spine looks fine, we educate [patients] that the pain signal they are feeling is not indicating tissue damage. We try to change how the patient thinks about pain, educate them about current theories on pain and then teach some muscle relaxation techniques," he tells WebMD.

Many people with back pain develop a fear of movement and a fear of reinjury so they put them through a reactivation/reconditioning program that combines special back exercises and cardiovascular exercises.

"We may also use antidepressants to improve sleep and relieve pain to some degree," Deardorff says.

He says that his success with this type of program is pretty good if the patient is willing to forgo their search for a quick-fix and accept this treatment model.

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