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Botulinum (Botox) Injection for Low Back Pain - Topic Overview

Botulinum toxin A is a protein produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, the same bacteria that causes botulism food poisoning. When injected into muscle in tiny amounts, botulinum A (Botox) can stop or reduce muscle spasm by blocking nerve signals to the muscle. This treatment has been used since the early 1990s to relieve severe muscle spasms around the eyes and in the neck, arms, legs, hands, and feet. Some people with cerebral palsy have gained significant relief from severe muscle contraction with botulinum toxin injections.

Botulinum toxin A has been tried as a treatment for chronic low back pain. Although this practice is experimental and not well tested, it has shown promise. For example, in one small study of 31 people with chronic low back pain, botulinum A injection was compared to saline injection into painful back muscles. Pain relief was reported by most people as lasting 3 to 4 months.1

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Start with your primary-care physician; back pain is so common that most family docs have seen lots of it. Your PCP is also a good person to return to if, later, you get conflicting treatment advice from specialists. He or she can help you evaluate what would be your best next step.  

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The small size of the study makes it impossible to guarantee that botulinum toxin injection is an effective and safe treatment for you.

Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of this medicine and its unlabeled use. Severe side effects have been reported.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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