When you think of ‘Botox,’ you might think about the permanently surprised faces of ‘Desperate Housewives’ or maybe how you’d like to try it out on your crow’s feet. We’ve come to think that Botox is synonymous with aesthetic beauty treatments. But the reality is that Botox can be used to successfully treat a number of health conditions.
Botox can be a treatment for overactive bladder, urinary incontinence, and other bladder conditions. Because it’s a muscle relaxant, it can also help manage pelvic pain. Women who are experiencing these issues can speak to their doctor about this type of treatment.
Here’s what you need to know.
Botox and the Bladder
Before understanding how Botox can help your pelvic health, let’s first establish what it is. Botox is a prescription medication brand name for botulinum toxin, which is a neurotoxic protein popularly used to ‘treat’ and prevent wrinkles and other forms of aging. Botox injections block certain chemical injections from nerves, which typically relaxes muscles. As such, it can also be used to treat a number of conditions, including excessive sweating, muscles spams, migraines, and lazy eye. 1
Botox injections can also be used for patients with refractory overactive bladder. 2
Overactive bladder is a common condition characterized by frequent, sudden urges to urinate that you may find difficult to control. It may also include urinating frequently (generally described as having to pee more than 8 times in a 24 hour period), nocturia, in which you need to urinate at least two times a night, and/or experience urge incontinence, which means you leak urine unintentionally.
Overactive bladder can have serious impacts on your mental health and quality of life, so it’s important (and possible) to treat it. Treatment usually begins with lifestyle and behavior modifications. The next step is typically then anti-muscarinic medication. Although often successful, this type of treatment also has side effects.
Botulinum toxin (Botox) injections may also be a beneficial, minimally invasive therapy for these patients. 3 It can also be used to treat urinary incontinence in adults with detrusor overactivity. 4
Botox treatment can prove beneficial because, according to one scientific review, “Botox selectively disrupts and modulates neurotransmission, suppresses detrusor overactivity, and modulates sensory function, inflammation, and glandular function. In addition to motor effects, Botox has been found to have sensory inhibitory effects and anti-inflammatory effects.” 5
Traditionally, doctors recommend surgery only when these treatments fail.
Botox and Pelvic Pain
Many women with pelvic pain also wonder if Botox can help offer relief. The answer to this question depends on the source of the pain.
Ultimately, Botox can sometimes help people who have tight pelvic floor muscles. Since Botox is a muscle relaxant, it can be injected into pelvic muscles to temporarily relax them. How long this effect lasts can vary. That’s why Dr. Daniel Gruber, urogynecologist from Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington D.C., part of John Hopkins medicine, recommends working with a good pelvic floor physical therapist first to try to relax your pelvic muscles.
The reality is that thankfully, there are a wide host of treatments now available to women facing a whole host of pelvic floor disorders. If you are experiencing symptoms of overactive bladder, pelvic pain, or other pelvic conditions, you don’t have to suffer in silence. Speak to your doctor. You can also use our Physician Finder to find a pelvic floor specialist near you.