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Can Botox really treat neurological disorders and chronic migraines?

Jun 20, 2017

Six conditions have seen the benefits of botulinum toxin

Move over wrinkles. There’s a new purpose for Botox: treating neurological disorders. 

Botulinum toxin is a neurotoxin that weakens the muscles to treat muscle stiffness and spasms, amongst other things. Botulinum toxin is best known by its name-brand form, Botox.

Dr. Jill Trumble

In the past, most people have associated Botox with the cosmetic industry, particularly smoothing out facial wrinkles and lines. Within the last several years, botulinum toxin has been recognized as a top neurological treatment.

Botox is a FDA-approved treatment for several different neurological and movement disorders, says Dr. Jill Trumble, neurologist and medical director of the St. Joseph’s/Candler Movement Disorders Program, including:

  • Cervical dystonia, which is an abnormal posturing of the head or neck
  • Hemifacial spasm, which is where one side of the patient’s face will twitch
  • Blepharospasm (or eye dystonia), which is where your eyes want to keep closing
  • Upper and lower limb spasticity, which is common in stroke patients or following a serious head injury
  • Hypersalivation, or drooling, which can be seen in Parkinson’s or stroke patients
  • Chronic migraine, which is defined as more than 15 headache days a month, lasting longer than four hours for more than six months

“A lot of my patients like the option of Botox because there are fewer side effects compared to oral medications,” Dr. Trumble says.

Side effects of botulinum toxin vary, depending on point of injection. Since the medication causes weakness to muscles, too much can make you too weak, Dr. Trumble says. Or, for example, if the medication is trying to control hypersalivation, too much could cause dry mouth.

There are little side effects to the shot itself. Patients may feel a pinch because it’s still a needle going through skin, and some may feel a burning sensation when the medicine goes in. However, unlike a tetanus or flu shot, there is no lingering pain or soreness, Dr. Trumble says.

Botox has gained in popularity as a treatment over the last several years, especially for chronic migraine, which Dr. Trumble says is the most common condition her office treats with Botox. It should be pointed out that botulinum toxin is a medical treatment, not a cure. Dr. Trumble says the medication last for about three months and then patients will need another injection.

Injection location depends on what diagnosis is being treated, Dr. Trumble says. Some conditions do require an injection into the face, but the location is different than for cosmetic purposes.

Because of its growing popularity, the St. Joseph’s/Candler Physician Network - Neurology office started a Botox Clinic every Friday afternoon, increasing the hours to all day on the second and fourth Friday of the month. The clinic is a designated time for neurologists to administer injections to patients.

To qualify for Botox injections, you must first meet with one of the neurologist with SJ/C – Neurology to confirm you are a good candidate for the treatment and that it’s approved by insurance. To schedule an appointment, call 912-819-4949 or request an appointment online.

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