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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 between 15 and 30 minutes. Results typically appear in three to seven days, 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
  • Muscle spasm due to myoclonus
  • Certain types of tremor

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

father giving son a piggyback in hospital

Am I a good candidate for botulinum toxin for movement disorders?

You may be a good candidate for botulinum toxin injections if you are at least 18 years old and 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 a neuromuscular condition (i.e. amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or myasthenia gravis)
  • Have Lambert-Eaton syndrome

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

Medically Reviewed by Holly Shill, MD, FAAN on April 18, 2022