Top Ten Surprising Uses for Botox


You may think that Botox is just for wrinkles, but research has revealed an expanding list of applications. Some of these may surprise you, some are still experimental, and all are interesting. Here are my nominees for the top ten:

10. Tennis elbow. Some studies have found that injections of Botox can reduce the inflammation associated with tennis elbow, though not as effectively as a cortisone-like steroid. Repeated injections of steroids can cause problems however so Botox may be a useful alternative for some.

9. Fighting cancer. A recent study suggests that botox may impede the growth of some types of tumors by blocking the nerves that the tumors depend on, making the cancer more susceptible to chemotherapy. This remains experimental and has not yet been tested in humans.

8. Emotional lift. Several studies point to a boost in emotions with Botox. One found a significant improvement over placebo for patients with severe depression resistant to antidepressant medications. The study reinforces others finding improvement in mood and stress with Botox.

7. Arthritis pain. Because Botox works by disrupting the transmission of nerve signals, it has been used in a few small studies on arthritis pain involving the shoulder, knee, and hip. While shown to be effective in reducing pain, these studies should be considered preliminary until larger clinical trials can be done.

6. Excessive sweating. For people bothered by excessive sweating, Botox can provide an alternative to medical treatments. The effect lasts longer than facial wrinkle injections, up to 9 months.

5. Urinary incontinence. Overactive bladder problems affect up to 20% of women over 40. For severe cases where medications do not provide complete relief, Botox injections into the bladder wall may provide relief lasting about 6 months.

4. Bell’s palsy. This is a condition involving the facial nerves resulting in drooping or muscle spasms on one side of the face. In some cases, Botox can be used to relieve the spasms and improve facial symmetry.

3. Migraine headaches. This is now an approved indication for Botox, and has significantly helped thousands of migraine sufferers.

2. Scarring. Several well-designed studies point to improved appearance of facial and neck scars when Botox is injected during the healing phase. The reasons for this are still being studied.

1. Pain control. This is my number one because the possibilities for chronic pain patients are so important. Scientists in the UK combined the botulinum toxin molecule in Botox with the toxin molecule that causes tetanus. While this may seem like a dangerous idea, the purpose was to reduce unwanted side effects. The Botox component blocked nerve signals while the tetanus component had an effect in the central nervous system. A single injection at the site of the pain could provide months of relief and reduce reliance on narcotic medications. This is unfortunately years away from clinical availability but the potential is exciting. (Reference: Ferrari E et. al. Synthetic self-assembling clostridial chimera for modulation of sensory functions. Bioconjug Chem. 2013 Oct 16;24(10):1750-9.)