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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 June, 2003, 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK
Botox used to ease pain
Botulinum toxin A

A south Wales hospital is using fashionable anti-wrinkle drug Botox to help alleviate chronic back pain.

In a move from the face to the spine, the celebrity cosmetic injection is helping dozens of patients find relief.

Botox is more commonly thought of as a miracle cure which irons out wrinkles by paralysing muscles.

But Nevill Hall hospital in Abergavenny, is injecting the drug right into the lower back to treat spasms in what is thought to be a Welsh first.


Stars like Madonna, Kylie Minogue and Liz Hurley are rumoured to keep the years at bay using Botox, which costs around 200 per treatments.

Back pain
Botox is injected right into the lower back
Botox uses tiny amounts of botulinum toxin, derived from the bacteria that cause botulism food poisoning.

It is used in small doses to temporarily paralyse facial muscles. Wrinkles are then smoothed out when the muscles relax.

But now patients at the Welsh hospital are benefiting from a different use of the drug, injecting the most powerful toxin known to man directly into the lower back.

Consultant anaesthetist Dr Michael Kocan began using Botox over two years ago, but it has recently been paying dividends.


"A lot of back pains - despite what is seen on X-rays - are not due to bony problems, but to excessive spasms in the muscles around the spine," he said.

Kylie Minogue
Kylie is thought to use Botox to fight wrinkles
"If you can relieve that spasm, those muscles that cannot relax are forced to relax and the pain can disappear."

Patient Carol Harrison had chronic back pain for 10 years and had found no treatment to ease her woe - until trying Botox six months ago.

"I've now got lots of energy, I can do anything I want to do.

"I don't need painkillers. It's been amazing."

Dr Kocan said 70% of his patients - who receive an injection every six months - benefit, but he admits the treatment is not a solution for everybody.

Doctors testing the method at Bupa's Clare Park Hospital in Farnham, Surrey, in 2002 instead reported a 50% success rate.

US hospitals have been using the treatment for five years.

Bonnie Tyler and Anne Robinson are other stars thought to use Botox for cosmetic reasons.

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