What Muscle Relaxers Do?
Muscle relaxers are drugs that used for the purpose of attaining relief from muscle spasms that can occur due to different conditions. Muscle spasms occur owing to the involuntary and uncontrolled contraction of muscles. The muscles tend to contract suddenly, giving rise to pain.
Spasticity results when muscles contract tightly due to which they become stiff and harder to use. Different muscle relaxers are currently in use to solve this problem.
Baclofen, dantrolene, diazepam, tizanidine, methocarbamol and a cannabis extract comprising of dronabinol and cannabidiol are some examples of muscle relaxers prescribed in the current times. Most of these options are available in the form of tablets, capsules and liquid form. Baclofen can be taken as an intrathecal injection, while diazepam can be administered rectally in liquid form.
Apart from attaining relief from muscle spasms, these drugs are sometimes used for other conditions as well. Diazepam is given to those suffering from anxiety or insomnia and can also be used to treat seizures.
How do they work?
Muscle relaxers perform their function by causing the muscles to become less stiff and tense, which leads to a reduction in pain and discomfort. Different muscle relaxers have different ways to perform their function. Baclofen, diazepam, methocarbamol, and tizanidine work by acting on the brain and spinal cord. Dantrolene has a direct effect on the muscles due to which it has relatively fewer side effects as compared to the other options and is the drug prescribed for chronic muscle spasms. Cannabis extracts act on the brain, spinal cord and muscle.
When are muscle relaxers prescribed?
There are quite a few conditions that lead to muscle spasms, for which muscle relaxers are prescribed to provide relief. Multiple sclerosis, motor neuron disease, cerebral palsy and injuries to the head and back are examples of conditions which benefit from muscle relaxers.
Cannabis is usually prescribed to patients with multiple sclerosis who do not show improvement with other muscle relaxers. Usually, it is given as a four-week trial to gauge the effects it causes. Diazepam is often used to provide relief from lower back pain or neck pain. The drug is addictive, so it should only be used for a week or two. Methocarbamol is used for treating muscle spasm in people suffering from lower back pain.
How to take the drugs?
The drugs are usually taken orally. Normally, the doctor starts the patient on a low dose, which is increased in a gradual manner over the period of a few weeks. This is done to give the body some time to get used to the medications.
Cannabis extract, which is available in the form of a spray for the mouth, needs to be sprayed under the tongue or onto the inside of the cheek once or twice in a day, as prescribed by the doctor. The patient is advised to change the area of the mouth where the spray is applied to minimize the risk of irritation in the mouth.
Potential side effects
All drugs have a certain list of side effects that one needs to be wary of, and muscle relaxers are no different. They may cause dizziness, sleeping problems, weakness and tiredness among other effects like liver toxicity, heartburn, and breathing problems.
Therefore, it needs to be ensured that the patient is closely monitored when the drugs are started so that intervention can be done in the case of any abnormality. It should also be made certain that compliance is observed by the patients.
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