Botox for stroke patients offers a temporary solution to spasticity — but you can see long-term results if you seek treatment correctly.
Most patients aren’t told exactly how Botox works, so they only see short-term results. This article will show you how to turn your temporary gains from Botox into lasting relief.
Trying Botox for stroke recovery might be a waste of time and money unless you fully understand the following concepts.
Understanding the Root Cause of Spasticity
Spasticity is a condition where muscles become stiff due to prolonged muscle contraction after neurological injury like stroke.
Patients may feel like spasticity is a problem with the muscles, but the problem actually stems from miscommunication between the brain and the muscles.
When stroke damages the motor cortex, it impairs the brain’s ability to send the correct signals telling the muscles to either contract or relax. This miscommunication can cause multiple muscles to contract at once without being able to relax, causing spasticity.
The disconnection between the brain and the muscles is the root cause of spasticity. This implies that restoring the brain-muscle connection will help relieve spasticity, which is true.
Once you retrain your brain to control your muscles, the spasticity can be reduced. So, how can Botox play a role in treatment?
Relieving Spasticity with Botox for Stroke Patients
Botulinum toxin (Botox) helps relax your muscles without getting your brain on board. Botox is a “nerve block” that blocks the release of chemicals that signal your muscles to tighten. As a result, your muscles relax.
According to WebMD, it can take 2-4 weeks for Botox to improve muscle stiffness. Many stroke patients rave about the “instant” muscle-relaxing benefits of Botox.
However, without getting your brain on board, Botox merely addresses the symptom of spasticity, not the root cause of the problem.
This means that once the Botox wears away after a few months, the problem will come back.
While this can be very beneficial in the short-term, you want to plan for the long-term, too.
Why Botox Is Only a Temporary Treatment
Botox becomes a temporary treatment when you don’t use it in conjunction with physical therapy to restore your brain-muscle communication.
It’s kind of like using pain killers for a broken ankle without wearing a cast. The painkillers will make pain go away, but you aren’t doing anything to heal the root problem.
That’s why it’s important to treat spasticity on both levels: relieve the symptoms temporarily with Botox and cure the root cause long-term by doing rehab exercises.
Doing Botox without participating in physical and/or occupational therapy will make the treatment temporary. But if you use the effects of Botox to create an opportunity to exercise, then you can see long-term results.
The Botox will loosen up your muscles so that you can move in the short-term, and the exercise will help rewire the brain so that you can keep moving in the long-term.
The Doctor’s Word on Botox for Stroke
Ross Bogey, DO, says that Botox may indirectly help with stroke rehab, especially for patients who can’t undergo therapy because of spasticity. The keyword here is indirectly.
Botox itself doesn’t resolve spasticity long-term – it simply creates the opportunity to exercise, which can improve your spasticity for good.
WebMD quoted him saying, “We often use Botox to reduce spasticity so patients can participate in therapy that leads to … recovery.”
In other words, Botox creates the opportunity to exercise, and exercise is what leads to recovery from spasticity.
So overall, Botox is an excellent treatment for spasticity when used as an opportunity to move your affected muscles and rewire your brain.
Botox alone creates temporary results. But Botox coupled with rehab exercise creates lasting results.