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When most people hear the term botox, they automatically assume that the impending use will be for some celebrities wrinkled, aging face and their last stab at beauty. However, few are aware of a more important use for botox, and the connection between botox and cerebral palsy.
Botulinum toxin type A, or botox, is a therapeutic muscle-relaxing agent that reduces the rigidity of muscles or unwanted spasms in a specific muscle. Botox is produced from the bacteria that causes food poisoning and provides relief for muscle stiffness at the site of injection. Though high doses of botox can be deadly, the very small doses used in cerebral palsy cases. Over the past ten years, the use of botox has shifted from wrinkle reduction to successfully treating muscle spasticity in children with cerebral palsy, making botox and cerebral palsy a hugely successful match.
The marriage of botox and cerebral palsy may seem odd at first, but is actually quite practical. When prepared for therapeutic use, botox is injected in small amounts into the spastic or stiff muscles. It begins to take effect by blocking transmission between the nerves and the affected muscles. The injection stops the signal between the nerve and the muscle, relaxing the muscle and reducing stiffness. Botox only affects the muscles that are injected and once the muscles are relaxed, therapists are able to stretch the muscles and stimulate normal growth.
There are several benefits associated with botox and cerebral palsy. Botox injections can offer many benefits including ease in stretching, improvement in child’s range of motion, tolerance to wearing braces and developmental improvements in crawling, standing, or gait changes.
US researcher studied 250 children with cerebral palsy, ranging from ages one to sixteen, and their reactions to botox treatment. After analyzing evidence from videos of the children’s gait, assessments by doctors, and reports from families, they found 86 % of the children treated demonstrated noticeable improvements in symptoms of muscle spasticity. Of those that were followed for more than two years, more than 80% continued to show improvement over their initial cerebral palsy symptoms before beginning treatment with botox.
The success of botox and cerebral palsy was almost immeasurable in the self- confidence category. Some children in the study were able to do more for themselves, like feeding or operating a sink faucet. Others were able to hold a pen and write for the first time, while some used a computer screen to communicate.
Researchers have found that with botox and cerebral palsy, children under the age of six respond best to this type of cerebral palsy treatment, especially effective in children who have not developed fixed joint contractures. It is most effective when used in the early stages of spasticity while the child’s bones are still developing and before problems with bone development and deformity set in.
A few children in the study had mild side effects such as flu-like symptoms and mild weakness of the legs, while the majority has soreness at the injection site. The botox injections benefits remain effective for approximately four months, after which they can be repeated.
Although the success of botox and cerebral palsy is more than evident, it has not yet become a widespread treatment. Access to botox treatment depends on where patients are located and whether there is local support and resources to fund it. With the increased success of botox and cerebral palsy, the availability of treatment should become more accommodating to the hundreds of thousands of patients standing to benefit.