WHAT IS A MUSCLE RELAXANT AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

Having a muscle spasm means that one or more of your muscles is contracting and the twitching or cramping is out of your control. It can happen for a lot of different reasons and can sometimes be very painful. 1

Your doctor might first suggest you try an over-the-counter medicine like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve your pain. But if these don’t work, or you can’t take them because you have another issue like liver problems or ulcers, your doctor may decide that a muscle relaxant (orphenadrine) is the right solution for you. 1

Muscle relaxants are ideally prescribed for acute rather than chronic pain and are used in conjunction with rest, physical therapy, and other measures to relieve pain and discomfort caused by strains, sprains, and other muscle injuries. 1,2

Muscle relaxants work by changing the way your body senses muscle pain. They “depress” the central nervous system (your brain and spinal cord) to alleviate pain and discomfort associated with muscle spasms (cramps) or muscle spasticity (continuous muscle contraction). 2,3,4

There are 2 main categories of skeletal muscle relaxants:

  1. Anti-spastic (such as baclofen) for conditions such as cerebral palsy* and multiple sclerosis** 5
  2. Pharmacotherapy may be used for acute musculoskeletal conditions when physical therapy is unavailable or has not been fully successful. Another class of antispasmodics for such treatment includes cyclobenzaprine, carisoprodol, diazepam, orphenadrine, and tizanidine. Effectiveness has not been clearly shown for metaxalone, methocarbamol, chlorzoxazone, baclofen, or dantrolene. Applicable conditions include acute back or neck pain, or pain after an injury5,6

No matter what kind of muscle relaxant you take, you may experience one or more of their side-effects. 1

Some of the most common side-effects include: 1

  • Tiredness, drowsiness, or sedation effect
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Depression
  • Decreased blood pressure

*Cerebral palsy is a problem that affects your muscle tone, movement, and motor skills like breathing, bladder and bowel control, eating, and talking. It affects the way your body move in a coordinated and purposeful way. It often is caused by brain damage that happens before or during a baby’s birth, or during the first 3 to 5 years of a child’s life. 8

**Multiple sclerosis is a disease when your immune system attacks your central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) causing nerve damage. When your nerves are damaged, it disrupts your body’s ability to send signals from one part of your central nervous system to another. 9

Some muscle relaxants can be habit forming, so be sure to tell your doctor if you have a history of substance abuse. 7

Do not drink alcohol while taking muscle relaxants. These medications may affect mental alertness. Ensure you are aware of how the medication affects you before driving or operating heavy machinery.1

Speak to your healthcare provider or pharmacist to determine which treatment option is most suitable for you.

DISCLAIMER: This editorial has been commissioned and brought to you by iNova Pharmaceuticals. Content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.

Name and business address of the holder of the certificate of registration: iNova Pharmaceuticals (Pty) Ltd,. Co. Reg. No. 1952/001640/07, 15e Riley Road, Bedfordview. Tel. No. 011 087 0000. www.inovapharma.co.za. For further information, speak to your healthcare professional. Further information is available on request from iNova Pharmaceuticals. IN2991/19

References:

    1. Do I Need a Muscle Relaxer? [online] October 2018 [cited March 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.webmd.com/back-pain/do-i-need-a-muscle-relaxer?print=true
    2. Orphenadrine. [online] January 2019 [cited March 2019; Available from URL: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682162.html
    3. Medical Definition of Muscle relaxant. [online] December 2018 [cited March 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=77812
    4. Muscle Relaxers; A List of Prescription Medications. [online] 22 June 2017 [cited March 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.healthline.com/health/muscle-relaxers#qa
    5. Use of Muscle Relaxants for Musculoskeletal Conditions Reviewed. [online] 5 August 2008 [cited March 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/578583_print
    6. The Musculoskeletal System and Disease. [online] May 2018 [cited March 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-musculoskeletal-system-what-is-it-189651
    7. Muscle Relaxants. [online] January 2019 [cited March 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/use-muscle-relaxants?print=true
    8. Cerebral Palsy. [online] September 2018 [cited March 2019]; Available from URL: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/cerebral-palsy.html?view=ptr&WT.ac=p-ptr
    9. Mayo Clinic. Multiple sclerosis. [online] August 2017 [cited March 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/multiple-sclerosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350269?p=1