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Northampton Medical Services

Muscle Relaxing Injections FAQs


What is Botulinum toxin ('Botox®')?

Botulinum toxin is a chemical produced by the botulinum bacteria. Botox® is a protein derivative of the toxin, which, when injected into a muscle, causes it to become weakened or inactivated. It stops the muscle from functioning by blocking neuromuscular transmission - i.e. it stops the chemical messages from the nerve to the muscle. Botox® and Vistabel® are both brand names for botulinum toxin. Vistabel® alone is licensed in the UK for muscle relaxing injections, although Botox® is also widely used (off-license).


How does it work?

By using facial muscles repeatedly throughout a lifetime, the skin is creased in areas of greatest use. The aging process causes the slow down of collagen and elastin production in the skin so that as we get older, these areas of over-use become damaged and the lines become permanent. By reducing the movement of muscles in these areas, the skin stops being creased and is allowed to recover, causing the lines to soften or even fade away. In the areas treated, the muscles are temporarily inactivated (always reversible), during which time the patient can break the subconscious habit of overusing these muscles. Depending on each individual and the dose used, the response to treatment can vary from a relaxation of the muscles to an inability to move the muscles.

For the first couple of years, frequent treatments are required to `re-educate' the facial muscles. Thereafter, treatments would be less frequent until a yearly maintenance treatment is normally all that is required.


How long has Botox® been in use?

As long ago as 1978, Botox® was used as a treatment for patients with eye squints by weakening the overactive eye muscle. Since then, it has been used in a variety of therapeutic areas such as spasmodic neck, writer's cramp, tics, multiple sclerosis, facial spasm, Parkinson's Disease and cerebral palsy, to name but a few. In more recent times the use of Botox® for cosmetic therapy has become more widespread.


How safe is Botox®?

In high concentrations botulinum toxin is a potent poison. However, Botox® used in minute doses, as it is in cosmetic therapy, has a very high margin of safety.


What happens during treatment?

The procedure takes about 15 to 20 minutes, although for first appointments 30 minutes is more usual. The practitioner will ask you to use certain muscles of the face to observe how they work. An extremely fine, short needle is used to inject the Botulinum toxin into the appropriate area. This may cause some slight but brief discomfort. The area may have some slight redness and swelling, which normally resolves in an hour or two. The treatment normally starts to take effect after 4 to 14 days, but this may vary slightly with some individuals. The effects will normally last between 2 and 6 months, when you will start to notice an ability to move the muscles more freely. You will be given a medical questionnaire before the injections to establish that you are suitable for treatment and will be asked to sign a consent form. You will also receive a leaflet afterwards explaining what you should and shouldn't do after the injections.


Are there any side effects?

Side effects of this treatment are rare. Bruising can sometimes develop especially around the eyes where there are often a lot of small veins. This is temporary and usually fades within about 1-2 weeks. Occasionally a temporary drooping of the eyelid can occur. This may last a few weeks, but will always resolve. Special eye drops can be prescribed during this time to help lift the lid back into the normal position. In extremely rare cases patients have developed an allergy to the treatment, while others have shown resistance, i.e. it causes little or no effect on the treated muscles.


Which areas can be treated?

The most usual areas to be treated are the forehead lines that wrinkle when you raise your eyebrows, the frown lines between your eyebrows and the laughter lines or 'crows feet' at the angles of your eyes. Wrinkles around the chin and angles of the mouth can also sometimes be treated as can some of the more prominent 'ropes' on the neck.

Other techniques can be used to lift the outer eyebrow to give a more exotic look and to give a wider eyed appearance.


Our medical practitioners can discuss with you your particular requirements and advise you about what is appropriate and suitable. We aim to give you a more relaxed, refreshed and youthful look that is subtle and avoids a mask-like appearance.


If you would like more information, or would like to make an appointment, please contact us at Northampton Medical Services on 01604 434742, or complete our contact form.