Objectives. To provide updated information on the role of botulinum toxins in the treatment of refractory pain based on prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies.
Design of the Review. Class I and class II articles were searched online through PubMed (1966 to the end of January 2011) and OvidSP including ahead-of-print manuscripts.
Results. Level A evidence (two or more class I studies—established efficacy): pain of cervical dystonia, chronic migraine, and chronic lateral epicondylitis. Level B evidence (one class I or two class II studies—probably effective and recommended): post-herpetic neuralgia, post-traumatic neuralgia, pain of plantar fasciitis, piriformis syndrome, and pain in total knee arthroplasty. Level C evidence (one class II study—possibly effective, may be used at discretion of clinician): allodynia of diabetic neuropathy, chronic low back pain, painful knee osteoarthritis, anterior knee pain with vastus lateralis imbalance, pelvic pain, post-operative pain in children with cerebral palsy after adductor hip release surgery, post-operative pain after mastectomy, and sphincter spasms and pain after hemorrhoidectomy. Level U evidence (efficacy not proven due to diverse class I and II results): myofascial pain syndrome and chronic daily headaches. Studies in episodic migraine and tension headaches have shown treatment failure (level A—negative).
Conclusion. Evidence-based data indicate that administration of botulinum toxin in several human conditions can alleviate refractory pain. The problems with some study designs and toxin dosage are critically reviewed.