Botulinum toxin type a for the treatment of neuropathic pain in neuro-rehabilitation

Domenico Intiso, Mario Basciani, Andrea Santamato, Marta Intiso, Filomena Di Rienzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pain is a natural protective mechanism and has a warning function signaling imminent or actual tissue damage. Neuropathic pain (NP) results from a dysfunction and derangement in the transmission and signal processing along the nervous system and it is a recognized disease in itself. The prevalence of NP is estimated to be between 6.9% and 10% in the general population. This condition can complicate the recovery from stroke, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord lesions, and several neuropathies promoting persistent disability and poor quality of life. Subjects suffering from NP describe it as burning, itching, lancing, and numbness, but hyperalgesia and allodynia represent the most bothersome symptoms. The management of NP is a clinical challenge and several non-pharmacological and pharmacological interventions have been proposed with variable benefits. Botulinum toxin (BTX) as an adjunct to other interventions can be a useful therapeutic tool for the treatment of disabled people. Although BTX-A is predominantly used to reduce spasticity in a neuro-rehabilitation setting, it has been used in several painful conditions including disorders characterized by NP. The underlying pharmacological mechanisms that operate in reducing pain are still unclear and include blocking nociceptor transduction, the reduction of neurogenic inflammation by inhibiting neural substances and neurotransmitters, and the prevention of peripheral and central sensitization. Some neurological disorders requiring rehabilitative intervention can show neuropathic pain resistant to common analgesic treatment. This paper addresses the effect of BTX-A in treating NP that complicates frequent disorders of the central and peripheral nervous system such as spinal cord injury, post-stroke shoulder pain, and painful diabetic neuropathy, which are commonly managed in a rehabilitation setting. Furthermore, BTX-A has an effect in relief pain that may characterize less common neurological disorders including post-traumatic neuralgia, phantom limb, and complex regional pain syndrome with focal dystonia. The use of BTX-A could represent a novel therapeutic strategy in caring for neuropathic pain whenever common pharmacological tools have been ineffective. However, large and well-designed clinical trials are needed to recommend BTX-A use in the relief of neuropathic pain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2454-2480
Number of pages27
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jun 30 2015


  • Botulinum toxin
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Pain
  • Rehabilitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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