We all know about the cosmetic uses of botox; used to release the lines on our face that are the imprint of our lives. When I tell me friends that I am going for a botox treatment they inevitably raise their eyebrows in surprise, knowing my feelings about it. I reassure them by explaining that I use it to treat parts of my body affected by the stroke; that this is not your mothers’ bottom!
One of the effects of my stroke is that the damaged part of the brain causes the muscles on the left side of my body to contract so tightly that I cannot use my arm and leg very effectively, if at all. This is called tone. I cannot straighten my left arm. It always looks as if I am about to give someone a hard left hook. My quadricep muscles in my thigh are so contracted I cannot bend my knee. So in order for me to walk I have to swing my left leg way out to the side to clear the floor. My big toe is so contracted it curls under my foot when I walk; causing repeated ingrown toenails and intense pain which frequently forces me into my wheelchair.
Right after my stroke I started seeing a physiatrist who administers botox in stroke survivors. The botox is injected into the effected muscles and relaxes them. Wonderful. We tried it on my arm and it while my arm was no longer in it’s threatening left hook position, I still had no use of it due to the severity of the damage caused by the stroke. Since my leg and foot were my biggest complaint we tried injecting it there. This was problematic. The muscles of my leg and foot are far larger than those in the arm would require a much larger amount of botox to be effective than is recommended. So for the next 4 years I had to endure a excruciating pain in my foot & toe until I broke my knee. Huh? How does that make sense?
While in the hospital recovering from my break I spoke with my rehab doctor, Dr. Lim about the severe pain I have in my leg and foot. He explained that in his training he has learned that much more botox can be used to treat severe tone than had been thought previously. Once I left the hospital and was well on my way to a full recovery I made an appointment for botox treatment in leg, foot and arm. From 3-4pm on a Friday was an extremely long hour as I endured 17 injections! Many were pretty easy to take, others marginal and at least three made me scream out. During the last one in the outside of my left calf, the muscle spasmed so hard it bent the needle. That was the worst!