Botox May Ease Chronic Neck Pain

Injections, Combined With Physical Therapy, May Offer Pain Relief

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on March 03, 2004
From the WebMD Archives

March 3, 2004 -- A shot of Botox may do more than erase the furrow from your brow, it may also get rid of that pain in your neck.

A new study shows that Botox injections may significantly reduce chronic neck pain when used in combination with physical therapy.

Botox is a purified form of botulinum toxin type A that has long been used to relax muscles and treat uncontrolled muscle contractions caused by a number of medical conditions. In recent years, however, it has become best known as a cosmetic treatment used to lessen the appearance of facial wrinkles.

Researchers say the results of this small study show that Botox may also be a useful addition to physical therapy to relieve neck pain caused by chronically contracted muscles.

Botox for Neck Pain

In the study, published in the January issue of the American Journal of Pain Management, researchers looked at the effects of combining a single injection of Botox delivered to the affected neck muscle with standard physical therapy in 25 people with chronic neck pain.

After three months of follow up, the participants were asked to rate their neck pain on a scale of one to 10. The study showed that the combination treatment reduced self-reported pain scores significantly, from about a six at the start of the study to a four by the end, an average reduction of nearly 40%.

More than 50% of the patients who participated in the study said they would undergo future Botox injections for the same problem.

The findings are consistent with previous studies that have shown Botox injections can relieve pain caused by other muscle-related conditions, such as cervical dystonia and spasticity (neck muscle stiffness and spasms). These studies show that the duration of pain relief offered by Botox varies from about three to- six months, depending on the disorder.

Researchers say that since this study did not compare the effectiveness of Botox combined with physical therapy versus physical therapy alone, it offers only indirect evidence that the injections enhanced the rehabilitation efforts. But they suspect that using Botox to relax the muscle before therapy maximizes the potential for rehabilitation and repair of damaged muscle tissue, strengthening of weakened muscles caused by spasms, and relieving pain.

Researchers says treating neck pain with Botox injections may also have an advantage over oral pain medications because the effects of the injection are local and does not cause the type of side effects commonly associated with oral pain medications, such as sedation, fatigue, and dizziness.