Botulinum toxin does not cure common forms of neck pain

There is no evidence that Botulinum toxin injections reduce chronic neck pain or associated headaches, says a group of scientists who reviewed nine trials involving a total of 503 participants. Their findings are published in the latest update of The Cochrane Library.

The Botulinum toxin (BoNT) operates by temporarily stopping muscles contracting. This reduces muscle tightness or . It is best known for its use in cosmetic treatments where commercially available products such as Botox, Dysport, Xeomin, Myobloc or Neurobloc are used to reduce wrinkles. Effects begin within three to eight days of an injection and may last up to four months. When the effect wears off, it can be repeated.

Having an injection of a very small volume of BoNT is not risk free, and patients may experience muscle tenderness or pain, weakness, or a general sense of being unwell. A few have anaphylactic reactions and there are reports that some have died.

"It's always important to look carefully at evidence from clinical trials to see whether a treatment is more effective than a placebo, and this is particularly important when treatments have known ," says the study's spokesperson, Dr Paul Michael Peloso, who works as a director of clinical research at Merck, in New Jersey, USA.

Some of the trials specifically compared the effects of either giving the toxin or a placebo injection of saline to two different groups of people with . The researchers could see no difference between the two groups either at 4 weeks or 6 months. Similarly adding BoNT to physiotherapy was no more effective than adding either an or saline.

"It is possible that BoNT did give some benefits that were not measured in the trials, or that it could help highly particular types of neck pain, but we would need some much more carefully conducted trials to reveal this," says Peloso.

"Based on current evidence we have no reason for supporting the use of BoNT as a stand-alone therapy for neck pain, but we do suggest that researchers consider further study to clarify whether the dose can be optimized for neck pain" says Peloso. The researchers also believe that trials should be run that look at other symptoms than pain, such as function, to see if there is any reason for believing that BoNT can provide some benefit.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Botulinum injection provides relief of tennis elbow

Apr 26, 2010

An injection of botulinum toxin can provide relief for "tennis elbow" but needs to be injected properly to avoid potential paralysis, states a research article in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Botox eases nerve pain in certain patients

Jun 10, 2010

Made popular for its ability to smooth wrinkles when injected into the face, Botox — a toxin known to weaken or paralyze certain nerves and muscles — may have another use that goes beyond the cosmetic.

New insights about Botulinum toxin A

Dec 02, 2010

A new study by researchers at the Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, is raising questions about the therapeutic use of botulinum toxin A.

Recommended for you

What are the chances that your dad isn't your dad?

Apr 16, 2014

How confident are you that the man you call dad is really your biological father? If you believe some of the most commonly-quoted figures, you could be forgiven for not being very confident at all. But how ...

New technology that is revealing the science of chewing

Apr 15, 2014

CSIRO's 3D mastication modelling, demonstrated for the first time in Melbourne today, is starting to provide researchers with new understanding of how to reduce salt, sugar and fat in food products, as well ...

After skin cancer, removable model replaces real ear

Apr 11, 2014

(HealthDay)—During his 10-year struggle with basal cell carcinoma, Henry Fiorentini emerged minus his right ear, and minus the hearing that goes with it. The good news: Today, the 56-year-old IT programmer ...

Italy scraps ban on donor-assisted reproduction

Apr 09, 2014

Italy's Constitutional Court on Wednesday struck down a Catholic Church-backed ban against assisted reproduction with sperm or egg donors that has forced thousands of sterile couples to seek help abroad.

User comments