Now being studied as an alternative to opioid drugs, Botox could very well be an effective way to manage chronic pain. A recent study is showing that injecting a single dose of botulinum toxin (Botox) into the spinal cavity can lead to several weeks of relief from chronic and neuropathic pain—at least, those are the effects being seen in mice.

The researchers behind the project are working to develop a new type of neurotoxin that will selectively silence the neurons that cause pain the spinal cord. The study found that, for 23 days, the method worked without causing any toxicities or killing any nerve cells.

To many, that might not sound like a big deal, but for those who suffer from chronic pain, it holds a hopeful promise. Right now, opioids are basically the standard when it comes to treating pain. But, they are also at the root of the country’s addiction epidemic. Maria Maiarù, the study’s lead author and a researcher in the department of cell and developmental biology at University College London, hopes to provide an opioid-free chronic pain treatment.

Of course, this research is still in its very early phases. Only mice have been tested so far with this method and there are only a few models of pain that can translate across species. Other experts who have commented on the study do not feel that the animal models are reliable when it comes to representing the chronic pain that animals feel.

When it comes to mice, it is difficult to separate chronic pain from acute pain. So, the researchers still have many steps to take when it comes to figuring out how this method may be used for chronic pain in humans. It has also been noted that injecting the Botox into the spinal canal is very risk.

Biochemically, the study is very interesting and, if the work is successful, it could have incredibly clinical implications. For Maiarù, she feels the next step is moving from mice and instead begin testing on dogs who suffer from osteoarthritis. She believes this treatment method could improve the duration of the treatment since arthritic dogs will already demonstrate the pain they are experiencing.

Although her study was only able to see 23 days of pain relief in the mice she tested on, Maiarù is confident that animals could see pain relief for up to three months. She cited that the U.K. ethics regulations only allow mice to be kept in a state of pain for about a month, which limited the scope of her study.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that Botox has been used to treat pain and it’s not that far of a stretch to think that it may have clinical use for chronic pain patients. the United States Food and Drug Administration has already approved its use for neck spasms and as a therapy for migraine sufferers, along with a host of other ailments.

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