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Botulinum toxin for the treatment of musculoskeletal pain and spasm.

The impressive pain relief experienced by sufferers of dystonia and spasticity from intramuscular injections of botulinum toxin suggested that patients with other chronic, musculoskeletal pain conditions also may benefit. However, there have been relatively few placebo-controlled studies of botulinum toxin in such non-neurologic conditions as myofascial pain syndrome, chronic neck and low back pain, and fibromyalgia; the results of these studies have not been impressive. One explanation for the lack of positive findings may be the lack of clinically evident muscle spasms (overactivity), despite the presence of muscle tenderness, tightness, or trigger points. Clinical observations of pain relief from injections of botulinum toxin for dystonia and spasticity and its apparent efficacy in treating migraine suggest an anti-nociceptive action independent of its neuromuscular junction-blocking action. Evidence from animal experiments supports this notion, and other data provide plausible physiologic mechanisms in the periphery and central nervous systems. These involve modulation of the activity of the neurotransmitters glutamate, substance P, calcitonin gene-related peptide, enkephalins, and others. However, even if botulinum toxin is firmly established as an analgesic, there is insufficient clinical evidence of its efficacy in treating non-neurologic, chronic, musculoskeletal pain conditions.

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