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Botox May Soothe Muscles After a Stroke

Repeated Botox Injections May Improve Muscle Tone and Function

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 28, 2005 -- The same Botox used to wipe out wrinkles may also soothe stiff, rigid muscles after a stroke.

A new study shows that repeated Botox injections after a stroke may improve muscle tone and reduce pain in the hands and arms, making it easier for stroke patients to dress themselves and perform other daily activities.

Researchers say up to 30% of stroke patients suffer from disabling muscle tightness, a condition known as muscle spasticity. When muscle spasticity affects the arms and hands, it makes it difficult for stroke patients to dress, wash, or feed themselves, and carry out other normal tasks.

"If it isn't managed effectively, post-stroke spasticity can result in very disabling complications such as contractures, a condition that leaves the muscles and tendons permanently shortened," says researcher Allison Brashear, MD, in a news release. Brashear is a professor and chairwoman of neurology at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

"Early intervention with effective therapies is absolutely vital to prevent the profound disability that afflicts many stroke patients, and to lessen the emotional and financial toll on caregivers and the health care system as a whole," says Brashear.

Botox for Muscle Spasticity

Previous studies have shown Botox injections reduced short-term muscle spasticity and pain after stroke, but researchers say this is the first study to look at the long-term effects of the treatment.

In the study, presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in Philadelphia, researchers treated 279 stroke patients with muscle spasticity in their arms and hands with up to five Botox injections delivered over the course of a year. Botox was injected at the wrist, thumbs, fingers, and elbows to block overactive nerve impulses that trigger excessive muscle contractions.

The results showed that after six weeks of treatment, muscle tone in the affected areas was improved and the improvement was sustained throughout the study.

Researchers also measured functional disability in four areas at the start of the study (hygiene, dressing, limb posture, and pain) on a four-point scale from "no disability" to "severe disability" and asked participants to identify which area was most important to them.

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