Muscle Relaxer Side Effects
Muscle relaxers are a group of drugs used to relieve muscle spasms that can result due to different conditions affecting the nervous system. Apart from diseases, long-term and short-term injuries to the head and neck can lead to muscle spasms. In such cases, the muscle relaxers prove to be highly beneficial in relaxing the muscles, which lead to relief from the pain and discomfort.
A muscle spasm occurs when a group of muscles contracts involuntarily and in an uncontrolled manner. The contraction occurs suddenly and gives rise to quite a bit of pain. Spasticity results when the muscles tighten a great deal due to which they become rather stiff, making it quite hard to use them.
Various muscle relaxers are currently prescribed by doctors. These include baclofen, dantrolene, diazepam, tizanidine, methocarbamol, and cannabis extract containing dronabinol and cannabidiol. Most of these medications are available as tablets, capsules or liquids. Baclofen is also available in an injectable form where the injection has to be inserted into the back. Diazepam is available in liquid form meant to be administered rectally, while an injectable preparation is available as well. Cannabis extract is only available as a spray for the mouth.
Multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and motor neuron disease are some examples of conditions related to the central nervous system that
lead to muscle spasms.
Potential side effects that one needs to be wary of
There are no drugs that carry no risk of side effects, so muscle relaxers also have a list of possible side effects that you need to be cautious about. It is important to keep in mind that everyone does not experience these side effects and most of the effects tend to improve as your body adjusts to the medication. Different muscle relaxers have different side effects. Let us take a look at some of them.
- Baclofen can lead to a feeling of sickness, tiredness, vision problems, weakness, and dizziness. Patients may also experience light-headedness, headache, and breathing problems. Some complain about dry mouth, muscle ache, anxiety, confusion and increased sweating.
- Cases of skin rash and sleeping disturbances have also been reported.
- Patients on dantrolene might experience dizziness, sleepiness, tiredness, sickness, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Some might also complain of a headache, loss of appetite, speech disturbances, fever with chills and seizures. Inflammation of the lining around the heart can also result in some cases, and there have been reports of liver toxicity caused by the drug.
- Those taking diazepam may feel weak and lightheaded, and they may suffer from episodes of forgetfulness. Confusion, aggression, and unsteadiness can also be caused by the drug.
- Patients taking tizanidine may experience drowsiness, dizziness, and fatigability. They may also complain of stomach upset, hallucinations, slower heart rate and difficulty in sleeping.
- Methocarbamol may lead to forgetfulness, anxiety, blurred vision, confusion, headache and heartburn. The drug can also trigger allergic reactions, and some patients might experience itching and rashes.
- Dizziness, depression, abdominal problems, mouth ulcers and changes in appetite have been reported with the usage of cannabis extract. There are also reports of hallucination.
Contraindications to muscle relaxers
There are certain conditions where muscle relaxers cannot be prescribed. Baclofen is contraindicated in patients suffering from a stomach ulcer, epilepsy, mental condition and diabetes. Similarly, dantrolene cannot be given to those who have liver, heart or breathing problems. It is advisable to prescribe diazepam to those suffering from conditions like myasthenia gravis and lung problems. Tizanidine should be avoided for elderly people or people with liver diseases.
Some factors to take into consideration
As has been noted, most people are prone to drowsiness. Hence, one should avoid driving or operating any machinery if he experiences dizziness on taking the medication. It is also advisable to refrain from consuming alcohol during this period.
- Certain drugs such as baclofen should not be stopped suddenly. The dose should be tapered off i.e. decreased slowly over a period of weeks before it is stopped completely.
- Diazepam has the potential for addiction, and those who take the drug for more than two weeks can grow dependent. Therefore, they might experience withdrawal symptoms if the drug is stopped suddenly.
Caution is advised
It is essential to keep in mind that the drugs can lead to some serious side effects if taken in the wrong manner. Therefore, it needs to be ensured that the dosage and timing of the medication are followed strictly as advised by the doctor. These drugs are available over the counter but if you have a serious condition you will need to purchase upon prescription. Therefore, you need to ensure that all the instructions are followed to the last letter to ensure that the drugs do not prove to be detrimental to the health. The drugs have the potential of being harmful and addictive, and it is up to you to ensure that the risk associated with them is minimized.
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