As most of us are aware, Botox can soften the wrinkles caused by muscle contraction, such as frowning or raising the eyebrows in surprise. These are called dynamic or expressive wrinkles. What is less well known about Botox is that it is just as frequently used for therapeutic reasons - to relieve pain or discomfort and with great success!
Botox is a muscle-relaxing drug thathas been in use for more than 20 years all over the world. Botox injections are quick, easy, relatively painless and require no downtime. The drug is reliable, relaxing only the muscles in the area injected in a precise, dose dependent manner. The margin of safety is very large. I often tell my squeamish patients that it is much easier to overdose on Aspirin than it is on Botox. It has no systemic effects and allergic reactions are vanishingly rare. These qualities have made Botox the world’s most common cosmetic procedure. These qualities are also what make Botox a leading therapeutic intervention. Botox is used to relieve the muscle spasms associated with Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, blepharospasm and bladder incontinence (just to name a few). Partially relaxing the muscles involved reduces incontinence and relieves pain, spasm, and stiffness.
If clients have ever had a migraine or get them all the time, relief is top on their list. Botox has been found to be quite effective at helping to prevent migraines, headaches and neck pain. In fact, it was just approved by the FDA as an effective treatment to decrease the frequency and severity of chronic migraine headaches.
It seems like everyone grinds or clenches their teeth these days. It is one of the most common ways that people react to stress, and there sure is plenty of that around! Some clench during the day and are aware of themselves doing it while others grind at night and suffer from headaches or jaw soreness in waking hours. There was no real solution, aside from dental appliances and stress management. Thankfully, Botox has been shown be the one treatment for grinding or clenching that really works. The individualized dose is injected into one or more of the three muscle groups involved in chewing: the masseter, temporalis or pterygoid muscles. The goal is to partially weaken the muscles for an extended time, eventually causing the patient to lose the habit of clenching and grinding. This will also soften the angle of the jaw, making an angular, square shaped face softer and more oval. A nice added effect.
Shaking a sweaty hand is as unpleasant for clients as it is awkward for the slippery shaker. Botox can be used to treat excessive sweating in the underarms, palms, feet and even on the forehead. By blocking the action of the sweat glands (nerves use the same neurotransmitter to signal muscles to fire as they do for sweat glands—the very one whose action is blocked by Botox), excessive sweaters can find relief. Botox injections for hyperhidrosis are effective for a surprisingly long period of time—up to a year if done correctly.
Over the last 20 years we have been using Botox with great success in a large variety of applications. It is remarkable that this compound is so safe, so precise and so effective! But like any procedure, Botox injection should be performed by the most experienced expert you can find. A great injector can achieve wonderful results with every patient, but it takes practice, training and an artistic eye.
Alexander Rivkin, M.D., is a Yale trained facial cosmetic surgeon and U.C.L.A. faculty member who focuses exclusively on providing his patients with the latest in non-invasive, non-ablative cosmetic treatments at Westside Aesthetics (Los Angeles). Rivkin is an international authority on non-surgical cosmetic treatments. He divides his time between patient care, clinical research, educating other physicians, media appearances, and lecturing at scientific conferences throughout the world.