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Botulinum Toxin (Botox) for Movement Disorders

Botulinum Toxin (Botox) for Movement Disorders Overview

Botulinum toxin is a therapeutic drug made from the bacterium Clostridium Botulinum through a special processing that makes the therapy safe for clinical use. It includes medications under trade names like Botox, Dysport, Xeomin, and Myobloc). It is often used to temporarily smooth facial wrinkles, but it can also be an effective treatment for some medical conditions—including movement disorders.

When injected directly into a muscle, Botox temporarily blocks the release of the acetylcholine—the neurotransmitter that tells the muscle to contract. This allows the muscle to relax.

Depending on the number of injections needed, the entire procedure takes approximately 15 and 30 minutes. Results typically appear in 2-3 weeks, and the effect usually lasts three to four months.

What is Botox for movement disorders used for?

Botox can be used to treat motor symptoms caused by muscle overactivity, such as:

  • Dystonia
  • Spasticity
  • Hemifacial spasm

Botulinum toxin may be recommended if you have one of the following conditions:

  • Blepharospasm
  • Dystonia, including cervical dystonia, writer’s cramp, and focal dystonias
  • Hemifacial Spasm
  • Orofacial Dyskinesias (Tardive Dyskinesias)
  • Dystonia due to Parkinson’s Disease
  • Spasticity due to multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, stroke, or traumatic brain injury
  • Excessive drooling
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Am I a good candidate for botulinum toxin for movement disorders?

You may be a good candidate for botulinum toxin injections if you have been diagnosed with one of the conditions above. 

Although this drug is technically a toxin, it is generally safe and effective when used in correct dosages by trained providers. The most common side effect is temporary muscle weakness near injection sites. You may also experience pain, bruising, or bleeding at the injection sites. Rarely, it can cause generalized weakness or flu-like symptoms.

You should not take botulinum toxin if you:

  • Are allergic to any of its ingredients or have had an allergic reaction to another botulinum toxin product
  • Are pregnant
  • Have Lambert-Eaton syndrome

Tell your doctor about all of your medical conditions and medications during your evaluation for Botox therapy.

Medically Reviewed by Brad A. Racette, MD, FAAN on March 6, 2023