Botox for cerebral palsy – does it help?
by Rikke Damkjær Moen - Physiotherapist and Medical Manager on 01.06.2018
Botox is the brand name for the injectable drug made from a toxic substance called botulinum toxin A. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll just stick to the brand name in this article.
How is it used?
As you might know, Botox is usually associated with cosmetics, but it’s got other important uses as well. We mentioned that Botox is toxic, but only in small doses. Once injected, the drug can paralyze specific muscles or block nerves from firing, thus reducing muscle spasticity. When spastic muscles are more relaxed, it is possible to train other muscles to improve gross motor function and gait.
According to the Norwegian cerebral palsy organisation CP-foreningen, common treatment goals are:
- Improved function
- Pain relief
- Reduced problems with orthoses
- Better facilitating personal care
Next, let’s look at the benefits.
READ MORE: What types of outcome measures in cerebral palsy do we have?
Does it work?
Even though Botox injections are common, the effects are disputed. According to Cerebral Palsy Guidance, some children benefit from injections, and others don’t. Some of the potential benefits are a better range of motion, better positioning of limbs and fewer spastic moments.
As the Botox dosages and the frequency of the injections can vary vastly, pinpointing effects has been difficult. A Norwegian study called The WE-Study is currently looking into this issue. The study is looking to find out whether Botox has any effects on gait by testing 96 children between the ages of 4 and 18 over a period of six months. The goal is to complete the study by 2019.
READ MORE: What do we know about strenght exercise for people with CP?
Treatment and side effects
As Botox is not considered to have a permanent effect, it’s recommended to repeat treatments periodically or every six months if possible.
Some studies have shown that Botox treatment has close to zero side effects. Still, it’s recommended to be wary of potential side effects such as pain and infections at the injection site.
No matter the dosage and frequency, it’s recommended that people who are injected with Botox are followed up extensively by healthcare professionals. If you consider Botox injections for yourself or someone you know, we recommend talking to a professional for guidance.