Muscle relaxers refer to the class of drugs used to provide relief from muscle spasms.
There are quite a few conditions affecting the central nervous system that can result in muscle spasms.
Trauma or injury to the head or back can also lead to muscle spasms.
With the help of the muscle relaxers, one can ensure that the pain and discomfort caused by the spasm are reduced.
Muscle spasm refers to the involuntary contraction of muscles which contract suddenly, giving rise to a wave of pain.
When the muscles contract tightly to the extent that they stiffen, spasticity is said to have occurred.
It then becomes quite hard to use these muscles.
Muscle relaxers can be used to prevent this condition.
A number of muscle relaxers are available on the market.
Cyclobenzaprine, baclofen, soma, dantrolene and tizanidine are examples of muscle relaxers that are prescribed commonly.
The muscle relaxers available on the market come in the form of tablets, capsules or liquids.
Some are also available as injectable preparations.
Some drugs are injected during surgery into the vein, which is also referred to as muscle relaxants.
They are used for the purpose of relaxing the muscles during surgery.
How do muscle relaxers perform their function?
The muscle relaxers perform their function by causing a decrease in the tension of the muscles, thereby ensuring that they become less stiff.
This leads to a reduction in pain and discomfort.
Different drugs have a different mechanism of action to perform their function.
Baclofen along with diazepam and methocarbamol act on the central nervous system and lead to the relaxation of the muscles.
On the other hand, dantrolene acts directly on the muscles.
Cyclobenzaprine is used to treat muscle spasms caused by acute conditions and is not found to be effective beyond a period of 2 weeks.
Diazepam is not used for the long term since it tends to cause dependency.
When it comes to prescription muscle relaxers for long-term usage, it is dantrolene which is preferred since it has relatively better safety profile as compared to the other options.
Carisoprodol or soma performs its function by blocking the pain sensation between the brain and the nerves, thereby providing relief from the pain caused by muscle spasms.
When are prescription muscle relaxers given to patients?
Muscle relaxers are prescribed so that the patient can attain relief from the pain and discomfort caused by muscle spasms.
This can occur in different conditions including multiple sclerosis, motor neuron disease, cerebral palsy and long-term injuries to the head or back. Short-term injuries such as whiplash can also lead to muscle spasms.
Certain drugs are usually given in the hospital, an example being the cannabis extract which is often prescribed to patients who have multiple sclerosis and fail to respond to other muscle relaxers.
The drug is administered in a four-week trial to gauge if any improvement occurs.
- Diazepam is used to provide relief from lower back pain or neck pain that can occur as a result of whiplash. Since the drug is addictive, it is only used for a week or two.
- Carisoprodol is given in cases of injuries or painful musculoskeletal conditions. The drug should be avoided in patients who have a history of drug abuse.
- Cyclobenzaprine is given to patients who are suffering from acute musculoskeletal conditions and required treatment for one or two weeks since the drug is found to be ineffective beyond this period.
Instructions associated with the drug
Most of the drugs are meant to be taken orally.
While prescribing muscle relaxers, doctors tend to start on a lower dosage and increase it gradually over the weeks.
This is done to ensure that the body gets adequate time to adjust to the medications. Similarly, when the drugs are supposed to be stopped, they are not withdrawn suddenly and are instead tapered off.
The drugs meant to be given as injectable preparations are started off in the hospital.
Cannabis extract which is available in the form of a spray for the mouth is sprayed under the region of the tongue or on the inside of the cheek as prescribed by the doctor.
It is advisable to change the area where the spray is applied so as to ensure that irritation does not occur.
Potential side effects
A drug is yet to be formulated which would not have any side effects.
Hence, muscle relaxers also carry a risk of certain side effects that the patient might have to experience due to the usage of the drug.
It needs to be kept in mind that the side effects can vary in patients and with the passage of time might subside on their own.
Muscle weakness is a common side effect caused by most muscle relaxers.
Some other side effects that can be caused by different muscle relaxers are given below.
This drug can lead to a feeling of sickness, tiredness, vision problems, weakness, dizziness, lightheadedness, headache and dry mouth in patients. The patient may also complain of breathing difficulties, insomnia, anxiety, increased micturition and sweating. There have also been reports of skin rashes.
Patients taking this drug usually complain of drowsiness, dry mouth, and dizziness. Agitation is also often reported.
There have been reports of paralysis, lack of coordination, lightheadedness, fainting, tachycardia, and seizures with the usage of this drug. Some patients may also experience vision loss or agitation. Complaints of drowsiness dizziness, tremor, blurred vision, depression, insomnia and GI disturbances have also been registered.
Dizziness, sleepiness, tiredness, diarrhea and sickness are among the complaints made about the usage of dantrolene. Patients also complain of a headache, loss of appetite, rash, speech and vision problems, fever, chills and seizures. There have also been reports of liver toxicity.
Sleepiness, weakness, and lightheadedness are the potential side effects that can be caused by this drug. Patients might also experience confusion or aggression owing to the usage of the drug.
There are certain conditions in which the muscle relaxers should be avoided.
For instance, Baclofen should not be prescribed to patients suffering from a stomach ulcer, epilepsy, or diabetes. Furthermore, dantrolene should not be given to patients who suffer from any liver or heart conditions.
It should also be avoided in cases where breathing problems exist.
Diazepam should not be given to patients who have severe breathing difficulties.
It should also be avoided in patients with myasthenia gravis and lung problems.
Tizanidine is not prescribed to elderly patients or patients who have a liver problem, while methocarbamol is not given to patients suffering from myasthenia gravis or breathing problems.
The drug is also avoided in patients with epilepsy or brain damage. Cyclobenzaprine is avoided in elderly patients as it leads to confusion and delirium.
Important guidelines to pay heed to
There are some guidelines that should be adhered to when a patient is given muscle relaxers.
As we have discussed, nearly all muscle relaxers can lead to drowsiness, so it needs to be ensured that the patient does not drive or operate any machinery after taking the medication.
It is also advisable to refrain from drinking alcohol when you are on any muscle relaxer.
Furthermore, the muscle relaxers should not be stopped suddenly or without the advice of the doctor.
The dosages need to be tapered off.
Diazepam carries a risk of dependency and thus, withdrawal symptoms can occur if the drug is taken for more than two weeks and is then stopped suddenly.
Thus, the drug should be taken and stopped according to the instructions of the doctor.
How to get prescribed muscle relaxers?
Muscle relaxers cannot be bought without a prescription.
These drugs can only be purchased from a pharmacy when you present your prescription for them.
This is due to the side effects that they can cause.
It also exists an herbal form of muscle relaxant without prescription but their effect will be much lower than the real prescribed medication.
These drugs are used for critical conditions, so it is important that consultation from a doctor is acquired before you make use of them.
The drugs are available online in some places, but even if purchased online, you will have to present a scanned copy of your prescription.
Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that the drugs need to be authentic, so you need to ensure that they are purchased from a place that can be relied upon.
It is important to ensure that the patient is compliant and would take the drugs as advised by the doctor.
Overdosing can prove to be detrimental to the health and if the maximum benefit of the drug is to be attained, you need to ensure that you follow the instructions laid out by the doctor.
The muscle relaxers also have some drug interactions, so if you are on any drug, the dose will have to be managed in accordance to that.
It is important to ensure that the drugs do not put your health in jeopardy and to make this certain, you need to make it certain that you abide by the guidelines that have been mentioned regarding the usage of these drugs.
Failure to do so can prove to be detrimental to your health.
Before you endeavor to use the drug, ensure that you acquire complete information about it from your doctor along with the potential side effects that you would need to be wary of.
This will make sure that you closely monitor your health and seek intervention in the case of any abnormality at the earliest.