: views from the Hill

Monday, May 03, 2004


Botox, it's not just for vanity. Research presented at the American Academy of Neurology meeting in San Francisco last week discussed the use of Botox injections to help ameliorate task-specific focal dystonia AKA occupational cramps.

Read a story in the Merc yesterday about pianist Larry Fleisher, who began using Botox in the nineties to combat focal hand dystonia which caused the two outer fingers of his right hand to curl inward, preventing him from playing two-handed piano. Fleisher, who played piano with the New York Philharmonic at age 16, spent two decades touring before developing focal hand dystonia in his prime. For over thirty years, before using Botox, he could only play left-handed. He stopped touring and turned instead to conducting and teaching, always searching for a solution to his situation.

The day after his first Botox injection, he was able to use his right hand again.

Over 300K North Americans have dystonia, AKA involuntary muscle contractions. According to the research discussed at the meeting last week, 70% of participants got some relief after just one injection. Continued injections -- in Fleisher's case every eight months -- are required to maintain the effect. Some doctors are concerned that continued use of Botox will permanently weaken patients' muscles, but leave it to patients to decide whether the benefits offset risks.

Found the EurekAlert press release and a USAToday article on the same subject, if you don't want to register just to read the Merc article. The New Yorker also has a Fleisher article. Fleisher is creating a media blizzard on the issues surrounding dystonia. He gave a keynote address at the AAN meeting and received the AAN Foundation Public Leadership in Neurology Award for 2004.

Check Google News for additional articles.

The Dystonia Medical Research Foundation provides a wealth of information about the disorder. Musicians with Dystonia, a program entity of the Dystonia Foundation, is "dedicated to serving the special needs of musicians affected by task-specific focal dystonia, particularly hand and embouchure dystonias." An estimated 10K musicians worldwide suffer from task-specific focal dystonia.

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