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Botox to Relieve Arthritis Pain

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By Jerome Edelstein, MD

In Toronto, Botox has become well-known for smoothing away lines and wrinkles of the face which contribute to a tired, aged appearance. Recently, however, this versatile medication has proven beneficial in a number of surprising areas. Neuromodulators like Botox, Xeomin, and Dysport have a long track record in the medical community for safe reduction of facial muscle movement through temporary blocking of their nerve signals. These effects are temporary, lasting an average of 4 months.

Innovative surgeons in Britain are now using Botox to relieve arthritis pain. The shoulder joint or rotator cuff consists of a group of four muscles and tendons surrounding the joint. These muscles and tendons keep the humerus bone of the upper arm positioned in the shoulder socket. Unfortunately, one in four people can be affected by painful, degenerative arthritis.

In the case of rotator cuff inflammation, injuries related to activity and sports happen, but more commonly age-related degeneration affects people over 50. Tendons tend to become weaker as we age and this can lead to excess wear and tear on tendons and surrounding tissue. This leads to painful loss of joint mobility.

A study from the University of Saarland Medical School in Germany conducted by orthopedic surgeons found that 13 percent of people in their 50s have evidence of tears, increasing to 51 percent of people in their 80s.

Anti-inflammatory medication is the most common treatment for arthritis pain and joint degeneration, however, this comes with adverse effects such as stomach upset, liver stress and bleeding issues.

The Daily Mail highlighted Dr. Chris Smith, a consultant shoulder and elbow surgeon at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital in Britain. He has been treating rotator cuff arthropathy with neuromodulators. Botox for arthritis treatment involves an injection of the medication into the supraspinatus muscle which is attached to the affected tendon. Patients then undergo physiotherapy to help mobilize the shoulder joint.


Botox reduces joint muscle pain by relaxing the muscle movement, easing the strain on sore, torn tendons and reducing the strength of dominant muscles. Some patients have claimed immediate pain relief related to Botox relaxing sore muscles in rotator cuff joints.

Dr. Smith has reported encouraging results from the 8 patients that he treated so far.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Botox injections into arthritic joints appear to reduce pain and improve function. Results from several scientific studies have been promising, but larger clinical trials are needed.”

Dr. David Felson, MD, MPH, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Boston University School of Medicine was quoted by the Arthritis Foundation as saying, “It isn’t just muscles. It can paralyze nerves. Just like celebrities injecting it into wrinkles, it could have the same effect on a hip muscle. Botox could paralyze the muscle that is transmitting pain.”

The trend of effectiveness in this area suggests that we could see Botox used widely alongside and even in place of NSAID anti-inflammatory pain medications for arthritis soon and perhaps reduce the need for extensive surgeries to treat this condition.

Another area of exploration are dietary supplements, such as Turmeric Curcumin

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