Muscle relaxing injections may relieve Major Depression

Can Muscle Relaxing Injections Treat Depression?

Just a single injection of muscle relaxing injections to treat the frown lines appears to ease depressive symptoms, new research suggests.

Results from a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial showed that muscle relaxing injections resulted in a “significant and sustained” improvement in the depressive symptoms of patients with moderate to severe unipolar depression. (Study by Normal E. Rosenthal, MD, clinical professor of psychiatry, Georgetown Medical School, Washington, DC;  published in the May issue of the Journal of Psychiatric Research)


Facial Expressions and Mood Disorders

Facial expression of negative emotions such as fear, sadness and anger all involve contraction of the corrugator muscles, and multiple lines of evidence implicate the corrugator muscles in depression.


(Author Dr Eric Finzi, MD, PhD from Chevy Chase Cosmetic Centre in Maryland)

74 people were selected who met the criteria for depression. They were randomly assigned to a treatment group (n=33 patients) who received one  muscle relaxing treatment for the frown muscle and a placebo group (n= 41) who received a saline treatment. The two groups  had very similar  demographics, anti-depressant usage and age distribution.The majority had recurrent depression (91% in treatment group and 80% placebo group).

Response rate was defined by a 50% or more reduction in the score using the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS).


The response rate was 52% in the treatment group and 15% in the placebo (non-treatment) group. Also, the treatment group had a remission rate of 27% compared with 7% in the placebo group. (Remission is a score of 10 or less using MADRS).

Peter D Kramer, MD, clinical professor of psychiatry at Brown University Medical School, Providence, Rhode Island, who was not involved in the research, stated that the strongest finding was “that the patients who were already on antidepressants had a good remission rate”. He stated that the value of the study was limited due to its small size.

If this effect is real what is the mechanism?

There has been a long held belief that changing facial expression can change the mood and also what memories the brain accesses. Is this the mechanism of action? An alternative theory is that the change in facial expression changes the way other people deal with you.


J Psychiatry Res. 2014;52:1-6