Treating muscle groups in continuity provides new direction in head and neck pain relief
A bacterial toxin known to cause severe illness in humans when taken in large doses can be an effective headache pain reliever, according to a University of Toronto study in the March issue of the journal Headache.
Botulinum toxin A - more commonly known as BotoxR - is a protein structure derived from the same family of bacteria that causes tetanus, an often fatal disease. This chemical causes temporary muscle paralysis by blocking transmission of nerve impulses and is currently used to treat an array of maladies including crossed eyes and juvenile cerebral palsy.
"Anywhere there's a muscle, there's likely a use for this chemical," says Dr. Robert Freund, associate in the Faculty of Dentistry who led the study. "It's easy, safe in small doses and surprisingly effective." Freund and colleague Marvin Schwartz compared two groups of patients suffering from headaches associated with neck pain - one with targeted botox injections in the head and neck while the other received a saline solution. After four weeks, the treatment group showed a substantially greater range of neck movement and reduction or elimination of pain while the placebo group showed no changes. The results match other studies on tension headaches and migraines.
"Headaches don't normally occur in isolation," Freund says. "Our study provides new direction on how to deal with head and neck pain and headaches in particular. By treating the muscle groups in continuity, we hope to be able to improve the overall quality of life for patients who suffer from these aches." The study was supported by Allergan Inc., North America's only manufacturer of botox.
CONTACT: Steven de Sousa
U of T Public Affairs
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