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Muscle Relaxers

Reasons to Have One, What to Expect, Associated Risks & More

3 Reasons Why Would You Need Muscle Relaxers

1. Back or neck injury

Muscle relaxers are often prescribed for back or neck pain. If your pain is the result of an injury or chronic condition, muscle relaxers can make you more comfortable,[1] but they can't repair damage caused by an injury or chronic disease.[2] For that, you may need surgery or physical therapy to treat the underlying problem. Your doctor may prescribe muscle relaxers to relieve your discomfort during or after treatment.

2. Muscle spasms

Many injuries or illnesses can trigger painful spasms in muscles throughout your body. Muscle relaxers help calm these involuntary muscle contractions. These drugs are especially helpful in treating conditions which cause acute pain.[2]

3. Muscle stiffness

Muscle spasticity, or muscle stiffness, often follows an accident or injury. Muscle relaxers can relieve your discomfort during the healing process. In some cases, muscle stiffness can be a symptom of neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy.[3] Muscle relaxers cannot cure these conditions, but they can treat troublesome symptoms that interfere with your everyday life.

Understanding Muscle Relaxers

Muscle relaxers are not a specific class of medications. Instead, they're a broad group of drugs that are often used to treat muscle spasms and muscle stiffness. These drugs can be divided into two general groups: antispasmodics and antispastics.[3]

Antispasmodics treat muscle spasms. These drugs typically act on your nervous system and prevent pain signals from reaching your brain. Antispasmodics are generally taken for no more than 2-3 weeks. Taking these drugs for an extended period may be harmful to your health.[3]

Antispastics cannot treat muscle spasms, but they can relieve muscle stiffness by acting directly on your muscles. Some antispastic drugs also work by disrupting signals between your muscles and your brain. These medications may help treat certain neurological conditions. They are often prescribed to people who are recovering from a stroke.[3]

Risks of Muscle Relaxers

Muscle relaxers are prescription drugs, and as such, a prescription from a qualified doctor is required to use them.[3] Your doctor will calculate the right dose for you based on your age, weight, and medical history. Do not share your muscle relaxers with another person.

Your doctor and pharmacist will explain how to take your muscle relaxers. Make sure to take your medication exactly as prescribed. Ignoring instructions from your doctor or pharmacist can be dangerous. Combining drugs or taking more than the prescribed dose can put you at risk for an accidental overdose.[2][3]

Many muscle relaxers may make you feel tired, dizzy, or disoriented. You shouldn't drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how these drugs will affect you.[2][3] If you're at high risk for falls, you may need to take your medication under the supervision of a family member or caregiver.

Let your doctor and pharmacist know what medications you are currently taking. If you are a heavy drinker, notify your doctor before taking muscle relaxers. Most doctors recommend avoiding alcohol while taking muscle relaxers.[2]

Some prescription medications and over-the-counter supplements can interfere with muscle relaxers. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any supplements or vitamins you use. Sleeping medications and opioid pain relievers should not be taken with muscle relaxers.[2]

Muscle relaxers can sometimes be habit-forming. If you have a history of addiction, your doctor may recommend that you avoid muscle relaxers. Talk to your doctor before discontinuing your medications to prevent withdrawal symptoms.[2][3]

What to Expect with a Muscle Relaxer

During your medical appointment, your doctor will explain which muscle relaxer they recommend. Your doctor may also let you know about common side effects of your prescription. When you pick up your medication, the pharmacist may also brief you about possible risks and side effects.

Before taking your medication for the first time, make sure that you are in a safe location. Your muscle relaxers might make you feel dizzy or tired. Don't plan on driving or doing anything physically strenuous after taking your medication.[2] Proceed slowly until you know how this medication will affect you.

Your muscle relaxers should provide significant symptom relief, but if you're still uncomfortable, contact your doctor before using any other medications. Don't take any new medications or supplements without speaking to your doctor or pharmacist.

It's important to remember that muscle relaxers are only one part of your treatment plan.[1] They may provide some symptom relief, but they won't cure an underlying injury or illness. Your doctor may recommend surgery, physical therapy, occupational therapy, neurological medication, or other treatments to address your underlying medical condition.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Muscle Relaxers

  • What condition is causing my symptoms?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • What kind of muscle relaxer would you recommend?
  • What results can I expect?
  • How long should I take this medication?
  • What side effects should I expect?
  • Is it safe to drive while taking this medication?
  • Is it safe to exercise while taking this medication?

Muscle Relaxers May Also be Known as:

  • Muscle relaxant

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