Public Release: 

Researchers use Botox-like injection to treat runners and cyclists with knee pain

A painful knee condition that affects more than one in eight active people has been treated effectively with a botulinum toxin injection and physiotherapy.

Imperial College London

A painful knee condition that affects more than one in eight active people has been treated effectively with a botulinum toxin injection and physiotherapy.

Researchers from Imperial College London and Fortius Clinic carried out a trial involving 45 patients with what they term lateral patellofemoral overload syndrome. Sufferers, often runners and cyclists, experience pain in the front and side of the knee joint.

The trial involved an injection of Dysport, which like Botox is a type of botulinum toxin, into a muscle under ultrasound guidance, at the front and outside of the hip, followed by personalised physiotherapy sessions.

Sixty nine per cent of patients required no further medical interventions, and had complete pain relief when followed up five years later. Previous studies have shown that 80 per cent of patients reported experiencing ongoing symptoms after conventional treatment, with 74 per cent experiencing reduced activity levels.

Lateral patellofemoral overload syndrome (LPOS) affects professional and amateur runners and cyclists as well as active people generally. Symptoms include inflammation and a sharp localised pain, which prevents athletes from continuing their activity, taking them several days to recover. Alternatively, athletes suffer inflammation and a progressive build-up of knee pain, which worsens after a sporting activity, taking them many days to improve.

The team estimate that one in five active females and one in eight active males have these symptoms. Active people are those who participate in sport - whether at an amateur or professional level. Current methods for treating patients include physiotherapy, the use of anti-inflammatories, steroid injections and if these methods fail, surgery. Even after such treatments, the majority of patients report persistent pain and reduced activity levels.

Physiotherapist Dr Jo Stephen, co-author of the study from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College London and Fortius, said: "As a physiotherapist it can be incredibly frustrating to run out of treatment options for patients with this painful condition. Many athletes who took part in this study had exhausted all other treatment options and this was their last resort. We are really excited that our approach is showing positive results for patients, which could have implications for active people around the world."

Sam Church, co-author and consultant knee surgeon from Fortius Clinic, said: "This research is a really exciting step forward in the management of a very common cause of knee pain in athletes. Our results show that botulinum toxin can provide better and longer lasting pain relief than the current, conventional alternatives."

The team had previously noted that patients with LPOS symptoms overused their tensor fascia lata muscle in the hip, instead of the gluteal muscles in the buttocks. They suspected that this was the reason why physiotherapy treatment often did not help patients to strengthen their buttocks, as the tensor fascia lata muscle was over-compensating when they were doing the supposed strengthening exercises.

In the study, the team first showed that using physiotherapy alone on patients failed to alleviate their pain. The patients then had an injection of Dysport into the front hip muscle, helping it to relax so that the buttock muscles had to be used more. Patients followed the injection with further physiotherapy to strengthen their buttocks muscles and address other weak or tight muscles as appropriate.

David Urquhart, co-author from Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, added: "Patients travelled from all over the country to take part in this study, which is an indication of their eagerness to find a solution to their discomfort. All had longstanding pain that had failed to respond to physiotherapy and conventional treatment. Our findings show botulinum toxin has revolutionised the treatment of these patients."

One of the current limitations with the study, say the team, is that they have not yet directly measured hip muscle activity, but engineers from Imperial have run a computational model to support their theory. The next step will see the team analysing muscle activity pre and post Dysport injections, with further computational analysis to explore the mechanisms at work.

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The study is published today in the American Journal of Sports Medicine and in conjunction with researchers and clinicians from Fortius Clinic and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

For further information please contact:

Colin Smith
Senior Research Media Officer
Communications and Public Affairs
Imperial College London
South Kensington Campus
London SW7 2AZ
Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 6712
Email: cd.smith@imperial.ac.uk
Duty press officer mobile: +44 (0)7803 886248

Notes to editors:

Case study one

Laura Milesi - a city banker and active amateur sportswoman who underwent the treatment. Contact Colin Smith (see contact details above).

Case study two

Andrew Goode - a professional rugby footballer who played for the London WASPS and now the Newcastle Falcons who underwent treatment. Contact Colin Smith (see contact details above).

"The use of sonographically-guided botulinum toxin type A (Dysport) injection into the tensor fascia lata for the treatment of lateral paellofemoral overload syndrome" paper published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

[1] [2] JM Stephen, [3] DWJ Urquhart, [1] RJ Van Arkel, [1] [3] S. Ball, [4] MKJ Jaggard, [2] [3] JC Lee, [2] JS Church

[1] Department of Mechanical Engineering, Imperial College London

[2] Fortius Clinic, 17 Fitzhardinge Street, London

[3] Chelsea and Westminster Hospital

[4] Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

About Imperial College London:

Imperial College London is one of the world's leading universities. The College's 14,000 students and 7,500 staff are expanding the frontiers of knowledge in science, medicine, engineering and business, and translating their discoveries into benefits for society.

Founded in 1907, Imperial builds on a distinguished past - having pioneered penicillin, holography and fibre optics - to shape the future. Imperial researchers work across disciplines to improve global health, tackle climate change, develop sustainable energy technology and address security challenges. This blend of academic excellence and its real-world application feeds into Imperial's exceptional learning environment, where students participate in research to push the limits of their degrees.

Imperial nurtures a dynamic enterprise culture, where collaborations with industrial, healthcare and international partners are the norm. In 2007, Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust formed the UK's first Academic Health Science Centre. This unique partnership aims to improve the quality of life of patients and populations by taking new discoveries and translating them into new therapies as quickly as possible.

Imperial has nine London campuses, including its White City Campus: a 25 acre research and innovation centre in west London. At White City, researchers, businesses and higher education partners are co-locating to create value from ideas on a global scale.

http://www.imperial.ac.uk

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About Fortius Clinic:

Fortius Clinic is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Fortius Group Limited, the UK's largest single orthopedic and sports injury medicine group in the UK. Home to over 50 leading specialists, we are dedicated to providing innovative and long-term solutions to patients with a range of musculoskeletal conditions, both surgical and non-surgical. Since opening in 2011, Fortius Clinic has established an international reputation for medical expertise and quality of care, becoming the centre of choice for many international sports clubs and elite teams and an accredited FIFA Medical Centre of Excellence.

For further information on our expert team of specialists and the full range of diagnostic and treatment services available, please visit: http://www.fortiusclinic.com .

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