Muscle relaxants: 12 drugs used

Muscle relaxants are medications used to treat spasms and spasticity. Keep reading and find out which are the most common, as well as their effects and contraindications.

Last update: 14 January, 2022

It can be said that there are two basic types of muscle relaxants. There are some that are used to treat spasms (carisoprodol, chlorzoxazone, cyclobenzaprine) and others that are used for spasticity (baclofen, dantrolene, diazepam).

These are drugs of delicate use, which require a prescription. Some of them can interact with other substances, as well as produce side effects.

In this article we will learn what muscle relaxants are, what their purposes are, precautions for use and contraindications. It is appropriate to point out that the intent of this article is informational only.

What are muscle relaxants and what are they used for?

As their name suggests, these are drugs that used to treat certain muscle problems. Specifically, they are recommended for spasms as well as spasticity.

We speak of spasms or cramps to refer to sudden and involuntary contractions of one or more muscles. These can be caused by accumulated tension and present with pain.

However, in spasticity the muscle feels stiff, making it difficult to flex a joint. It is caused by injury to the nerves involved in movement. It can be a symptom of some conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or cerebral palsy.

Muscle relaxants can help relieve or reduce pain and discomfort related to spasms and spasticity, including conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome. But nevertheless, they do not attack the root cause.

It is opportune to point out that these drugs should not be interchanged, that is, they cannot be administered one instead of the other. Therefore, antispastics should not be used for spasms, although some antispasmodics (such as tizanidine) are also recommended for spasticity.

Commonly used antispasmodic muscle relaxants

antispasmodics act on the nervous system, producing a sedative effect, in the sense that they block or inhibit pain signals. It is advised not to use them for more than 2 to 3 weeks.

On the other hand, so far they have not been shown to be more effective than NSAIDs or acetaminophen, but they do have more side effects than these. Among the best known are the following.

Some antispasmodics act on the smooth muscle of the intestine, preventing colic-like pain in this organ.

1. Carisoprodol

Carisoprodol comes in 350-milligram (mg) tablets. It is recommended for musculoskeletal disorders that cause pain, caused by strains or sprains or other injuries. It can also be found combined with aspirin or with aspirin and codeine.

2. Chlorzoxazone

Known with brands Paraphon ® or Lorzone ®, chlorzoxazone is also used to relieve pain and contractions due to muscle tears or sprains. In treatment, it is usually used in conjunction with aspirin or pain relievers such as paracetamol.

3. Metaxalon or metaxalone

commercially called skelaxin ® or Metaxall ®. It is administered orally and comes in 800 mg tablets. This muscle relaxant is effective, but relatively powerful, so it should be consumed in moderation.

4. Methocarbamol

The best known trade name for this muscle relaxant is Robaxin ®. Comes in 500 mg tablets. It is considered ineffective for low back pain, as well as in cases of rheumatoid arthritis and muscular problems of cerebral palsy.

The maximum dose in adults is 2 to 3 tablets 4 times daily (4 to 6 grams per day). But the dosage needs to be adjusted for elderly people and patients with liver disease.

5. Orphenadrine

Norflex ® is a muscle relaxant for oral administration. It has an anticholinergic effect, therefore, it is recommended for pain and to help with motor control in people with Parkinson’s.

6. Tizanidine

Tizanidine is a muscle relaxant spinal cord alpha-2 receptor agonist. It is central in function and slows down the action of the brain and nervous system.

7. Cyclobenzaprine

Cyclobenzaprine is a tricyclic drug. It comes in various forms, usually 5 to 10 mg.

It is administered 2 to 4 times a day, with the maximum dose being 60 mg/day. It is useful for pain, but not for spasticity or stiffness.

Commonly used antispastic muscle relaxants

The other group of muscle relaxants is made up of antispastics. Among these are the following.

8. Baclofen

Baclofen (Lioresal ®) is used for spasticity in multiple sclerosis. Be supposed to works by blocking nerve signals sent by the spine and trigger spasms.

9. Dantrolene

Commercially known as dantrium ®, dantrolene is also prescribed in multiple sclerosis, as well as for muscle spasms caused by strokes, spinal injuries, and cerebral palsy. Unlike the previous one, it acts on skeletal muscle.

10. Diazepam

Diazepam (Valium ®) is a drug from the group of benzodiazepines. It is used in depression and anxiety, and it is also a muscle relaxant that helps relieve spasms.

Other prescribed medications such as muscle relaxants

Apart from those already mentioned, some medications may be recommended by health professionals to treat problems such as spasticity, without actually being muscle relaxants.

11. Benzodiazepines

Other benzodiazepines can help relax muscles, due to its sedative effects. These include clonazepam and alprazolam.

12. Gabapentin

Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant. It also helps relieve muscle spasticity, although its function is not fully understood.

Gabapentin has a muscle-relaxing effect that is not directly used in clinical practice. Its main indication is the prevention of seizures.

Precautions and contraindications

muscle relaxants They interact with alcohol and other medications. Therefore, concomitant use with opioid analgesics, psychotropics, and central nervous system depressants should be avoided.

Because they are delicate to use, you should consult your doctor in the following cases:

  • Adults over 65 years of age and under 18 years of age.
  • Patients with mental disorders.
  • Liver disease and kidney failure.

If the person is going to operate machinery, heavy equipment or perform any task that requires strength, precision and coordination, they cannot take them.

Side effects of muscle relaxants

muscle relaxants can cause various side effects. The most common are the following:

  • Drowsiness and fatigue.
  • Dizziness or loss of balance.
  • Headaches.
  • Nervous agitation.
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things.

Long-term treatment with muscle relaxants should be avoided., since some can create dependency, as well as withdrawal symptoms.

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