Can Botox injections relieve arthritis pain?

Answers from April Chang-Miller, M.D.

In early studies, Botox injections appear to reduce arthritis pain in the shoulder, knee and hip. These results are promising, but they fall short of proving that Botox injections are an effective treatment for arthritis pain.

Botox injections are the best known of a group of medications that use various forms of botulinum toxin to temporarily paralyze muscle activity. Other medications that contain botulinum toxin include Dysport, Myobloc and Xeomin. This toxin is produced by the microbe that causes botulism, a type of food poisoning.

So far, participants in various studies have reported improvement in arthritis pain and function after Botox injections. Botulinum toxin works by blocking the transmission of certain chemical signals that relay information between nerves and the brain.

These preliminary studies have been small, and many of them didn't include a control group to see if the botulinum toxin injections work better than placebo. So there's much left to learn about the possible role of Botox injections in arthritis treatment.

While research continues, proven treatment options — such as exercise, weight loss and medication — remain the focus of most arthritis treatment plans.

Feb. 13, 2014