Muscle Relaxants

Treating Muscle Spasms and Pain


At some point, every human body will suffer from muscle pain and muscle spasms. Wear and tear on our bodies can be expected in our lifetime. Many people don't even go to the doctor with such complaints. And, even when sufferers do seek the advice of a medical professional, the root of the problem is difficult to diagnose and treat.

A doctor may recommend certain prescription muscle relaxants or over the counter muscle relaxants to help you cope with the pain and discomfort. In the even that you are ever involved in a serious accident or injure yourself severely, nurses and doctors at hospitals may also give you muscle relaxants through IV, injections or orally.

But few people understand how muscle relaxants work. This is troubling as muscle relaxants are some of the most misused and abused medications out there. Most people don't read the pamphlet or label that accompanies their prescription muscle relaxants or over the counter muscle relaxants. If people don't know how muscle relaxants work and why they are taking them, they put their health in jeopardy.

Understanding Muscle Relaxants

Before you start looking into over the counter muscle relaxants or prescription muscle relaxants, you should try to understand how muscle relaxants work. Here is a breakdown and description of some drugs that the FDA recognizes as skeletal muscle relaxants.

Baclofen
Baclofen is marketed under the brand names of Lioresal and Kemstro. Baclofen attacks spasticity, which is a central nervous system disorder where muscles receive continuous messages to tighten and contract. It is commonly prescribed as a treatment for spastic movement due to injury to the spinal cord, multiple sclerosis, ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) and spastic diplegia (a form of cerebal palsy). The therapeutic effect comes from modulation of the GABAb receptor.

Baclofen is preferred over other prescription muscle relaxants because there is little evidence of tolerance and the drug maintains its benefits even after chronic use. The drug has also shown promise for treatment of recurring hiccups and drug or alcohol addiction. Therapy usually starts at a relatively low dose of 10 mg daily that is divided into increments. Dosages can go up to a maximum of 80mg daily.

One problematic issue with Baclofen is the fact that withdrawal after prolonged use can bring about many unpleasant side effects. Withdrawal symptoms are often compared to benzodiazepine withdrawal (Xanax, Klonopin, etc.) and alcohol withdrawal.

Cyclobenzaprine
Cyclobenzaprine is marketed as Flexeril and Fexmid. There are also generic forms of Flexeril and Fexmid. Amrix, an extended release formulation, was approved by the FDA for once-a-day use.

Cyclobenzaprine is typically prescribed by physicians to relieve pain and muscle spasms. It is commonly prescribed for whiplash following a car accident.

There is also some evidence that the drug is effective for fibromyalgia and as a sleep aid. This could be due to the fact Cyclobenzaprine is related to first generation tricyclic anti-depressants. Use of the drug can bring about some troubling side effects like upset stomach, drowsiness, depression, dizziness, headaches, blurred vision, agitation and dry mouth. Caution is also advised, as there is potential for serious interactions with other medications.

There is also potential for illicit use and life threatening overdose due to heart arrhythmias and seizures.

Metaxalone
Metaxalone is marketed as Skelaxin and is typically used for muscle relaxation and pain relief related to sprains, muscle strain and other musculoskeletal problems. It is believed that the drug depresses the general central nervous system and Skelaxin is widely regarded as one of the stronger muscle relaxants with the fewest side effects. Skelaxin is available in 800 mg and it is advised that this medication be taken with food.

Methocarbamol
Methocarbamol goes under the trade name of Robaxin. It is used in medical settings and administered to patients either intravenously, by injection, or orally. Methocarbamol is used for the treatment of skeletal muscle spasm and acts as central muscle relaxant.

Tizanidine
Tizanidine goes under the brand name of Zanaflex and is prescribed for the treatment of muscle spasms, muscle tightness and cramping. Zanaflex also shows promise for treating migraine headaches, aiding sleep, alleviating symptoms associated with fibromyalgia, and acting as an anti-convulsant. It is available in tablet and gel cap at 2 to 6 mg. Some caution should be used with Zanaflex as it can cause a drop in blood pressure, elevated liver function and visual hallucinations. Doses should also be gradually reduced upon discontinuing use to avoid serious withdrawal symptoms.

These are just a few of the prescription muscle relaxants used in the medical profession. Over the counter muscle relaxants have also emerged in recent years but are still relatively new to the market. We hope this information has provided you with a better understanding of how muscle relaxants work and which medication may be right for your condition.

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