Research: Botulinum Toxin in Pain Management of Soft Tissue Syndromes Including Fibromyalgia & Myofascial Pain Syndrome

Smith HS, Audette J, Royal MA.

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213, USA.

Botulinum toxin is approved for the treatment of muscle overactivity associated with several disorders, such as dystonias. However, control of muscle spasm often results in pain relief as well. Effective relief of pain associated with myofascial pain syndrome provides a model for the use of botulinum toxin to relieve pain associated with other types of soft-tissue syndromes, such as fibromyalgia.

Although the mechanisms that trigger the pain in these syndromes vary, recent data suggest that a central neuroplastic mechanism may contribute to many complex pain syndromes. Botulinum toxin therapy may be particularly useful in soft-tissue syndromes that are refractory to traditional treatment with physical therapy, electrical muscle stimulation, and other approaches.

Although not used as first-line therapy for pain relief, botulinum toxin may decrease pain long enough for patients to resume more conservative therapy. A primary benefit of treatment with botulinum toxin is its long duration of action. Several studies have demonstrated the efficacy of botulinum toxin types A and B in treating several neuropathic pain disorders.

Proper patient selection, injection technique, and dosing are critical to obtaining the best outcomes in managing pain with botulinum toxin. Additional study is needed to better characterize its use for the treatment of pain.

Source: Clin J Pain 2002 Nov-Dec;18(6 Suppl):S147-54

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