Botox, dubbed as “the little neurotoxin that could,” by USA Today. It’s a household name now, isn’t it? Have you tried it? Is it safe? Several friends I know use it to calm forehead wrinkles, crow’s feet and lines around the face. I have to admit they look dang good! I’ve been offered the opportunity to try it. Most of you know I’m about living naturally and cleanly. I am not a fan of putting foreign substances, especially known toxins, in one’s body. Chemo 13 years ago was a challenge but perhaps it helped save my life. I also try to withhold judgment on how others live. For many of my clean-living friends and readers, you may be surprised that this is a topic for a post, but bear with me, I promise you’ll learn something. I did.
Yesterday while driving home, I happened to catch an interesting program on NPR discussing the pros and cons of Botox. In this week’s Time magazine, the front cover says “How Botox Became the Drug That’s Treating Everything.” Hmmm… No longer just for beauty purposes, I learned that it can provide huge relief for those suffering with migraines, bladder control issues, excessive sweating, muscle weakness in children, and adults with Cerebral Palsy, Parkinson’s Disease and muscle spasms like those associated with stroke patients. A woman interviewed on the NPR program raved about the fact that she no longer has debilitating incontinence thanks to a quarterly shot of Botox in the bladder area. Another woman’s mother can finally unclench her fingers after suffering a stroke.
On the flip side, others have had their respective symptoms made worse.
Facts about Botox
Botulinum toxin (botox) is a neurotoxic protein produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum and related species, according to Wikipedia. Infection with the bacterium causes the disease botulism or food poisoning
- This toxin is used commercially in medicine, research and 50% in cosmetics alone
- Botox boasted sales of well of $1.9 billion for it’s manufacturer, Allergan, in 2015
- A mega-drug that’s mega-profitable (Paula K. Dumas)
- When injected it delivers a tiny dose of toxin that blocks communication and movement between nerves and muscles
- Botulinum is the most acutely lethal toxin known and the US FDA requires a black -box warning (the strongest type of warning label given to any drug) cautioning that there is evidence the drug had been linked to serious side effects. The FDA notes that “the toxin may spread from the area of injection to produce symptoms of botulism,” including muscle weakness and difficulty breathing that can occur hours or weeks after an injection.
There are 7 types of botulinum toxin – Type A and B are capable of causing disease in humans but are also used commercially and medically. These types treat various muscle spasms and diseases characterized by overactive muscle.
- Most experts claim that usage is safe when correctly administered
- Side effects may occur and vary from person to person
- Botox is NOT approved for children under the age of 12
- There is truth that Botox’s ever-expanding uses are largely driven by physicians (see off-label uses below)
Once approved for one condition, doctors can then prescribe and use a drug for any other medical disorder they think it can help: Some of these have included: severely cold hands, lockjaw, back pain, sexual dysfunction, depression, drooling and teeth grinding.
Who doesn’t want to hear or read of medical intervention helping with someone’s chronic suffering in some area of his or her life? However, it’s also disturbing to read that in a study published in 2008, a researcher noted that he found evidence suggesting that the toxin could access the nervous system and the brain. He actually found evidence of the drug in the brain stem. The study remains controversial, of course. (Alexandra Sifferlin, Time Magazine, January 5, 2017)
Common Side Effects of Botox
- Eyelid drooping
- Lung inflammation
- Neck pain
- Muscle stiffness and weakness
- Muscle pain and spasms
- Pain at injection site
- High blood pressure
- Possible migration of toxin to other areas of the body including the brain
Neither the NPR interviews nor the Time article asked or addressed whether patients who found relief from Botox had tried other alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, chiropractic or Reiki treatments before trying Botox. I found that interesting.
In the NPR interview it was noted that approximately 31 Botox injections around 7 areas of the head are current protocol for treating migraines. Often the treatments are painful and can be expensive. I’ve actually witnessed young children with multiple (not even close to 31) tiny acupuncture needles in their scalps with no pain and resounding success for migraines. They were playing a board game during their treatment of 30 minutes. This treatment comes without any side effects and is considerably less expensive.
Note: Look for next week’s post about cosmetic acupuncture and facelifts!
Misalignment in the vertebrae often causes neck, back and headache issues. Studies have proven that chiropractic care proper with alignment adjustments which impacts the nervous system, can greatly help with chronic headaches management. On a personal level, I have scoliosis and with monthly adjustments, I have much less neck and head pain. I don’t like neck or any cracking. My chiropractor is a certified Nucca practitioner. This is also gentle, non-invasive technique. The focus of the NUCCA work is the relationship between the upper cervical spine (neck) and its influence on the central nervous system and brain stem function. For more info check out www.nucca.org.
Reiki is a noninvasive healing modality that has been shown to be effective with those suffering from chronic headaches as well. A medical doctor for 28 years, Dr. R.B. Paty claims “Before learning Reiki, I suffered with migraine headaches for 20 years; After becoming a Reiki practitioner, my migraines have disappeared for the last four years.” Click here for more info and my post on Reiki.
Costs, Time and Pain
Considering Botox is a high cost/high benefit decision. There are immediate out-of-pocket costs, long-term higher cost of insurance, your time, and the pain of injections. Botox for migraine costs approximately $525 per vial (100 units) and a typical migraine dose is 155 units. Depending on what your doctor charges in addition to the Botox itself, it’ll set you back $1500 – $2300 to test it out. Be prepared that it may take 6-9 months to find out if the treatment works. And then there’s the needle pain. I read that “Don’t make the mistake of going to get a Botox injection if you’re in the midst of an attack, because it’ll be more painful than ever. Better to reschedule.” Possible negative side effects, include migration of toxin to other parts of the body, including the brain.
Typical costs: Fees for an initial visit range from $75 to $95 for an acupuncture session and medical consultation. Routine visits cost $50 to $70. Costs are similar nationwide, and should not differ greatly between service offered by clinics or private practitioners, who may also be chiropractors. These are typically not covered by insurance. Not painful with a certified practitioner and no negative side effects.
In general, chiropractic services range from approximately $30 to $200 per session. Of course, each type of treatment has a different cost. For example, an initial consultation with a chiropractor may be provided at no charge, while a typical therapy session costs about $65 on average. Typically no severe pain with no negative side effects.
A Reiki treatment usually will cost between $25.00 and $100.00 depending on the area of the country. However, some practitioners offer treatments free of charge or for a donation. No pain associated with this treatment and no negative side effects.
From a health standpoint, I’ll be honest in that it’s been hard for me to wrap my head around injecting a form of botulism into my face. From a medical perspective I’m happy to hear that so many people are benefiting from what it offers them with their respective medical issues. I’m sure when the risks and the benefits have been looked at carefully, who am I to judge. Don’t get me wrong; I believe that western medicine has provided relief to millions of people.
As a proponent of alternative therapies and practices that alleviate or minimize side effects I tend to first explore options that could provide relief and effectiveness for any personal health issues. There are so many out there offering proven huge successes and with much less cost- financial and health risk. The “little neurotoxin that could.” Hmmm… You decide.
Note: Next week’s post: Cosmetic acupuncture and facelifts!
Peace and Good Health!
International Center for Reiki Training – Dr. R.B Paty, Chief Medical Officer
7 Things you need to Know Before Getting Botox for Migraines – Paula K. Dumas, 2015
NPR’s On Point – Botox Revolution Moves Beyond Wrinkles, January 9, 2017 Click here to listen.
Nucca.org – National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association
The Guardian – Is Botox as safe as we think it is? Alison Moodie, August 2016
Time Magazine – The Drug That’s Treating Everything, Alexandra Sifferlin, January 5, 2017
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