Along with a hectic TV schedule for Arrested Development and Royal Pains (and the paperback release of his book about fly-fishing!) legendary “Happy Days” star and devoted family man Henry Winkler has been crisscrossing the country to raise awareness that Botox isn’t just for erasing wrinkles: it’s a hugely valuable, FDA-approved therapy for relaxing muscles after a stroke.
“You’ve seen it a million times: an elbow, hand, or wrist that is gnarled and frozen into place,” says Winkler. “Upper limb spasticity is painful, it is embarrassing, and it diminishes one’s dignity. Mom’s hand was locked in a fist after her stroke. Simple things like washing her hands and getting dressed were difficult. Over time, she just got deeper and deeper into her sadness.”
About 1 million Americans have ULS. Head injuries and neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis can also trigger troubling symptoms.
Now in his third year of “ambassadorship” for using Botox therapy to relieve muscle spasticity caused by stroke, Winkler is more passionate about his role than ever.
“I was asked, I’m sure, because of my celebrity, and I was asked because my mom did have upper limb spasticity. But I really knew nothing about ULS until I started traveling to hospitals and meeting caretakers, family members, and patients. All of a sudden I realized: Holy Mackerel, I am so thrilled that I was smart enough to say yes! I talk about my family, my mom, and what I’ve learned from the health pros. My job is to say: ‘Botox therapy for ULS exists!’”
Winkler shares two stories of how Botox can relax affected muscles and restore movement: One man’s arm returned to his side “where it belonged” after 50 years. In another case, siblings spoke of having to negotiate around their mother’s “chicken wing” while they cared for her. After Botox, the woman was able to put both arms around her daughters for the first time in two and a half years.
“I hear these amazing accounts and can’t help but wonder how Botox might have changed my mother’s view of living,” says Winkler. “Meeting with stroke patients is like going to a big revival meeting! Hundreds come and many openly share how this therapy improves their everyday lives and gives them back their dignity.”
“Absolutely there are other treatments for ULS,” he continues. “But when physical therapy and drugs fall short, consult a doctor who understands the therapeutic use of Botox for limb spasticity, and discuss whether you are a candidate for the approved treatment. That simple gesture can change your life.”