What is Botulinum Toxin?
Botulinum toxin has become one of the most well-known products in the world. Its ability to reduce wrinkles was accidentally discovered when it was used to treat blepharospasms. Since then, Botulinum toxin has been used for many different medical conditions such as cerebral palsy and migraine. Its use in the cosmetic world is probably the most well-known and the number of patients treated in this area has expanded exponentially.
How does Botulinum Toxin work?
Botulinum toxin works by preventing the release of the neurotransmitter from the nerve endings and stopping specific muscle fibres from contracting. Since the muscle cannot contract, it diminishes the facial lines and prevents further deterioration of the wrinkles. Besides using Botulinum toxin for wrinkles and anti-aging, it can also be used for contouring parts of the body. One area that has been increasing in popularity has been the calf muscle.
Calf Reduction Using Botulinum Toxin
There are many women who feel that the size of their calf is not in proportion to the rest of their leg or their calf is simply too muscular. The bulk of the calf is mainly composed of two muscles; the outer muscle is the gastrocnemius, which is bulky and it’s function is associated with motion to generate power such as jumping and running. Underneath the gastrocnemius is the soleus muscle and it is used more for walking and this muscle does not contract as effectively as the gastrocnemius muscle.
If a patient has a preference for a calf reduction, one option would be to inject Botulinum toxin into the gastrocnemius muscle. Similar to its anti-aging action , Botulinum toxin reduces muscle contraction by blocking the release of the neurotransmitter from the nerve endings. Once some of muscle fibres stop contracting, it will lead to disuse atrophy or a certain degree of muscle wasting, leading to a reduction of gastrocnemius muscle bulk and thereby reducing the size of the calf. It is important to understand that this muscle will still function but not to the same degree as before injecting Botulinum toxin. There is still the soleus muscle which will enable the patient to remain mobile. One of the drawbacks of muscle bulk reduction may mean some reduction in power. This is not a major issue for most people but may impact a more active person such as a ballroom dancer, who is interested in the proportion of their calf with the rest of their leg along with being able to perform powerful jumps.
Using Botulinum toxin to slim the jawline
Another example of the use of Botulinum toxin is to slim the jawline by reducing muscle in that area. The function of the masseter muscles in the jaw helps with the action of chewing, however in some patients, the muscle may be bulky which gives the appearance of a widened jawline. Injection of Botulinum toxin into the masseter muscle will reduce the muscle bulk, resulting in a more “V” shaped face which appears slimmer. Similar to calf reduction where a reduction in power may be evident, patients may find some minor weakness in chewing hard or tough foods such as nuts or meat.
The effect of Botulinum toxin is not permanent and repeat injections may be necessary in around 6-9 months from the initial injection.
Therefore, it is always helpful to speak with your plastic surgeon to discuss the various options that meet your needs.