Botulinum (Botox) Injection for Low Back Pain

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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 recently been tried as a treatment for chronic low back pain. Although this practice is experimental and not well tested, it has shown early promise. 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

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 unlabelled use. Severe side effects have been reported.

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. Foster L, et al. (2001). Botulinum toxin A and chronic low back pain: A randomized, double-blind study. Neurology, 56(10): 1290–1293.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics
Last Revised June 8, 2010

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