Every three months for the past year, I have received Botox injections – not for wrinkles – but as a treatment to relax my spastic muscles. I receive about 11 injections per session including my shoulder, bicep, forearm, calf, and the arch of my foot.
The treatment takes about 90 minutes starting with careful preparation of the poisonous and expensive substance. Botox is produced from the same bacteria that causes botulism poisoning. It's also a powerful neurotoxin (inhibits neuron communication across synapses). Essentially it blocks messages from brain to muscle, paralyzing the muscle to allow temporary relaxation.
My physical medicine doctor, "Dr. M," sticks electrodes to my skin around the targeted muscle. These sensors feed back to a computer that provides an audio representation of the erroneous signals being sent by the damaged area of my brain. Dr. M. inserts a needle into the belly of the muscle then wiggles it around until he finds the spot of highest interference – represented by a loud crackling static. Then he injects the Botox.
Yes, it hurts. My mom sat with me through one of my sessions and was distressed by my stifled cries. But about a week later the treated muscles relax enough to allow me to exercise and build the opposing weak muscles. In this way, Botox doesn't offer just temporary relief. It provides a respite during which my other treatments, such as exercise and electrical stimulation, can do their jobs more effectively to bring about long-term recovery.