Botox Jabs: A New Weapon Against Chronic Pain

The wrinkle-busting injection is seeing use by some doctors as a pain reliever.

ByABC News
February 9, 2009, 3:30 PM

Jan. 17, 2008 — -- People will try almost anything to get rid of pain: heat, ice, nasty smelling oils, magnets or even the potentially toxic chemicals found in spores of deadly bacteria.

That's right for some, a purified form of the botulinum toxin, better known by the brand name Botox, may be a solution for recurring pain.

For the past five years, a growing number of pain specialists have found that the same injections used to relax wrinkles can also relax painful muscle spasms. And there's even an added benefit in that while standard injections for pain relief numb a muscle for three days, Botox may work for three months without many side effects.

But before anyone with a pulled muscle or tension headache decides to begin feeding the billion-dollar-a-year Botox business, it might be time for a reality check and a price check.

For starters, botulinum toxin type A has only won the U.S. Food and Drug Association's approval for treatment of wrinkles and a handful of rare medical conditions, not including muscle pain. A patient must decide whether ending the pain relief is worth the risk of going "off label," not to mention the $600-per-bottle price tag rarely covered by insurance.

The cost was worth it if for Adrienne Groza, 42, a retired San Diego police officer who suffered with pain for more than a decade.

Groza's painful past could match any episode of "Miami Vice." In 1993, a drunken driver ran a red light and T-boned her new police cruiser. She went into a 360-degree spin before slamming sideways to a stop.

Three months later, a drunk who confused Groza with his ex-girlfriend became violent, and the altercation revealed that her bad neck pain from the accident was much more than whiplash.

"We were wrestling with him on the ground and my back locked up," said Groza.

The pain after the incident led her to see a doctor, who diagnosed her as having three bulging disks in her neck one of which was on the verge of rupturing into her spinal cord. She was forced to retire.