Health centre uses treatment to relieve patients

“I’m not saving her life right now. But I am making her life better.”



One of the busiest Botox clinics in Toronto doesn’t deal with wrinkled foreheads or crinkled crow’s feet. Instead, it helps people walk and talk.


Doctors at the spasticity clinic at West Park Healthcare Centre use botulinum toxin, or Botox, to treat the condition, which causes muscles to continually and involuntarily contract.


Spasticity can set in after a spinal cord or brain injury. It also affects people with multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy, as well as stroke survivors. But Dr. Chris Boulias says spasticity is underdiagnosed and up to 90 per cent of Ontarians with the condition don’t get proper treatment.

“People don’t look at spasticity as high up on the list of things to treat,” he says, because the condition, while uncomfortable and sometimes painful, is not life-threatening.

Five years ago, Corazon Syed, 53, had an aneurysm that left her left arm and leg stiff with spasticity. She couldn’t walk without help, stairs were an overwhelming obstacle and even simple tasks, such as dressing and washing, became impossible.

“I woke up in the hospital and I was paralyzed,” she recalls.

About 40 per cent of West Park’s spasticity patients get Botox injections, which only target affected muscles. Spasticity causes nerves to continually fire neurotransmitters to muscle, making it constantly contract. The botulinum toxin molecules go to the nerve endings and stop the release of neurotransmitters.

Syed has to have 16 Botox injections into different muscles along her forearm, leg and foot.

At the end of a 30-minute session, Boulias watches Syed slowly walk down the hall to her husband. Even though she needs a cane and a brace to walk, he points out her gait is more than it was even an hour ago.

“I’m not saving her life right now,” says Boulias. “But I am making her life better.”