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Botox might relieve tennis elbow pain

The wrinkle fighting Botox injections might be helpful as a new therapy for the chronic pain of tennis elbow.

Botox might relieve tennis elbow pain

The wrinkle fighting Botox injections might be helpful as a new therapy for the chronic pain of tennis elbow. Though Botox has become popular for its ability to smooth wrinkle lines, the substance has long been used to treat the uncontrolled muscle contractions that mark a number of medical conditions, like cerebral palsy and chronic eye-muscle spasms. Botox is a purified form of the toxin that causes botulism food poisoning. When injected in small doses, botulinum toxin helps relax spastic muscles by preventing nerve cells from releasing a chemical that triggers muscle contractions. Recent studies have suggested that Botox may aid chronic pain, including conditions like migraine and lower back and neck pain. Tennis elbow, medically known as lateral epicondylitis, is an overuse injury to tendons in the outer side of the elbow. As the name implies, it often arises in racquet-sport enthusiasts, but it can also result from other repetitive arm motions, such as using a screwdriver, hammering or painting. There are many options for treating tennis elbow, including rest, anti-inflammatory pain medications, braces and injections of corticosteroids. But in studies, only anti-inflammatory lotions or ointments have proven effective. Researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Prince of Wales Hospital analysed 60 adults who suffered from tennis elbow pain for at least three months. Half of them received a single injection of botulinum toxin type A in the affected area and the other half were injected with saline. Three months later, patients who received the toxin showed greater improvements in their pain than the placebo patients. In the botulinum toxin group, the average score on a standard pain-rating scale fell from 65.5 - 23.5 over three months. Among placebo patients, the average score dipped from nearly 66 - 43.5. The toxin did cause muscle weakness in the fingers in few patients; muscle weakness is a typical side effect of Botox in general. More studies are needed to confirm the toxin's effectiveness for tennis elbow. It's not clear why it may aid the condition, but direct analgesic effects may be at work.
Annals of Internal Medicine,
December 2005
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