Q: My father recently suffered a stroke and his right fist is now clenched. I was told Botox could help. Is that true?
A: Your father’s problem, called “spasticity,” is a condition in which certain muscles in your body become stiff or tight. Since the spasticity does not occur immediately after the stroke, people are often concerned that the stroke is getting worse. Approximately 39% of stroke victims develop spasticity within the first year of the stroke. Spasticity can occur as a bent wrist or elbow, closed fist, arm held tightly against the chest, bending at the hip or knee, crossing of the leg or ankle, and toes flexing downward. Botox, Dysport, and Xeomin are three commercially available medications that are derived from botulinum toxin. These medicines are injected directly into the specific muscles that are overly tight and spastic. They help by relaxing the muscle and increasing range of motion and function. There are minimal side effects associated with botulinum toxin injections. Botulinum toxin is not for everyone, but in the appropriate individuals it can be extremely effective. Other very effective treatments are available and you can discuss them with your family physician, neurologist, or physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist.
David Bowers, M.D.
Siskin Hospital for Physical Rehabilitation
One Siskin Plaza
Chattanooga, TN 37403