Botox does so much more than reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles. We already know it can be used to treat chronic migraines and is even used to treat medication-resistant depression, but did you know just how much Botox injections can do for Parkinson’s patients? A new study, published in ScienceDirect, has found that patients who received Botox injections to the neck for their Parkinson’s saw a reduction in both uncontrollable movement and, surprisingly, anxiety.
It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that having an illness like Parkinson’s is anxiety inducing. Parkinson’s is a progressive disorder caused by the degeneration of nerve cells, and a major side effect is what’s called cervical dystonia. Affecting the muscles in the neck that control the position of the head, cervical dystonia causes the head to be pulled forward and backward or to one side. There is usually some amount of pain caused by these movements, and in some cases it can be severe.
According to the study, people who have cervical dystonia have a high lifetime risk of developing mental illnesses, with 90% of patients affected. 30-40% of those mental illnesses developed were diagnosed as anxiety.
Botulinum toxin, or Botox, has actually been used in Parkinson’s patients and others with cervical dystonia since the 1980s. Weakening the muscle intentionally, Botox can help reduce muscle spasm and uncontrollable movement. But researchers noticed that the effect it was having on the anxiety of these patients might not just be a secondary benefit to the reduction in spasms. They wanted to know if the reduction in pain and anxiety was due to the improvement in their motor function, or if the Botox was having a direct effect on their anxiety.
This small observational study found that improvements in cervical dystonia and anxiety were not well correlated, suggesting “a potential direct, central effect of BoNT on anxiety in CD.”
Of course, we still have a long way to go before we know exactly how Botox could work to reduce anxiety. But, given the success of its use for the treatment of depression, the potential is exciting.
Experts have previously believed that the success of Botox for depression has to do with facial feedback, or the idea that your facial expression can have a direct effect on your emotions. Now, with this observational study, it is possible that Botox is having a more direct effect on the brain by reaching those areas that deal with mood and emotions.
Could the next wave of anti-depression and anti-anxiety treatments be led by Botox?
It certainly is a space to watch.