What are muscle relaxants?
Muscle relaxants, also known as muscle relaxers, are medications prescribed by doctors to influence muscle function. They are commonly used to manage conditions such as muscle spasms, stiffness, and pain related to the muscles and bones. Muscle relaxants can be divided into two main categories: antispastice and antispasmodics, each with different applications, modes of action, and potential side effects.
Types of muscle relaxers
In the United States, doctors can prescribe various types of antispasmodic skeletal muscle relaxants, including Carisoprodol, Chlorzoxazone, Cyclobenzaprine, Metaxalone, Methocarbamol, and Orphenadrine. There are also antispastic skeletal muscle relaxants available, such as Baclofen and Dantrolene. Additionally, Tizanidine and Diazepam have both antispastic and antispasmodic effects.
What to know about muscle relaxants
1. Muscle relaxants can help with acute back pain: For short-term relief of acute musculoskeletal back pain, muscle relaxants can be effective, especially in the initial three weeks. They work by blocking nerve signals in the brain and spinal cord to break the cycle of pain causing muscle spasms.
2. They might be more suitable for younger adults: Muscle relaxants can cause drowsiness and changes in walking, which may increase the risk of falls and injuries, particularly in older adults.
3. There might be side effects: Possible side effects of muscle relaxants include drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, fatigue, and changes in walking. Individuals with liver, kidney, or heart conditions should use these drugs with caution.
4. There is potential for abuse and serious risks: Muscle relaxants can be addictive, and overdosing on them can be life-threatening. Combining muscle relaxants with alcohol or other sedative drugs is particularly dangerous.
5. They should be stopped gradually: If you have been taking muscle relaxants for a long time, it is important to gradually reduce the dosage before completely stopping the medication to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Remember that muscle relaxants are just one part of managing back pain. Your doctor may recommend other treatments such as physical therapy, exercise, changes to your workplace setup, or epidural steroid injections to prevent the return of back pain.