Pelvic pain associated with endometriosis often becomes chronic and can persist (or recur); following surgical and hormonal interventions. According to results published in Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine; treating pelvic floor muscle spasm with botulinum toxin may relieve pain and improve quality of life.

The study conduct by scientists at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS); part of the National Institutes of Health. The botulinum toxin injections were incredibly effective in decreasing pain levels; as well as patients’ use of pain medications, including opioids.

Many of the women in our study report that the pain had a profound effect on their quality of life; and this treatment may be able to help them get their lives back.” Pamela Stratton, M.D., a gynecologist and scientist at NINDS, who co-led the study with Barbara Karp, M.D., a neurologist and program director at NINDS.

Surgically treated endometriosis

Endometriosis occurs when the uterine tissue lining grows outside of the uterus; and is estimated to affect up to 176 million women worldwide. It is an inflammatory condition that can lead to infertility and cause chronic pain. The usual gynecologic treatments; include hormonal therapy and surgery to remove the growths. However, in many cases, pain returns after the interventions.

In the study, women with surgically treated endometriosis who were generally taking hormones to suppress menses; but who continued to experience pain and had pelvic floor muscle spasm; initially received injections of botulinum toxin or saline as part of a placebo-controlled clinical trial, targeting areas of spasm.

At least one month after the mask study injection; 13 participants chose to receive open-label botulinum toxin injections in areas; that remain in spasm and were then followed for at least four months. These patients were described in the current study at the NIH Clinical Center.

Pelvic floor muscle spasm

In all participants, during follow-up, pelvic floor muscle spasm was not detect; or occurred in fewer muscles. Within two months of receiving the injections, pain decreased in all of the participants; with 11 out of 13 subjects reporting that their pain was mild or had disappeared.

Additionally, usage of pain medication reduce in more than half of the participants. Prior to receiving toxin injections, eight participants reported moderate or severe disability and after treatment; six of those patients noted an improvement. The participants experienced a decrease in muscle spasm; and had pain relief that resulted in less disability and less use of pain medication.

Botulinum toxin may help women

These findings suggest that pelvic floor muscle spasm may be experience by women; with endometriosis and contribute to pain persisting after standard treatment. Importantly, the beneficial effects were long-lasting; with many patients reporting pain relief lasting at least six months.

Botulinum toxins, such as Botox, work by blocking the nerve signals; for muscles to contract and have been used to treat migraines and certain movement disorders. Previous research has suggest that botulinum toxin may help women experiencing other types of chronic pelvic pain; but this treatment had not been studied in women with endometriosis.

“We know that many doctors are using botulinum toxin to help their patients;but everyone uses slightly different techniques and methods; including different brands of toxin and various doses. This study will begin to provide rigor to help ensure standardized protocols and treatment in pelvic pain,” said Dr. Karp.