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Highlighting the Side Effects of Muscle Relaxants

Side effects are problems that occur when treatment goes beyond the desired effect or problems that occur in addition to the desired therapeutic effect. When side effects of necessary medication are severe, sometimes a second medication, lifestyle change, dietary change, or other measure may help to minimize them. Drug manufacturers are required to list all known side effects of their products. Fatigue, nausea, vomiting, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss, and mouth sores are instances of side effects of cancer treatment that occur in addition to the desired therapeutic effect. A hemorrhage from the use of too much anticoagulant (such as heparin) is a side effect caused by treatment going beyond the desired effect. As with all drugs, some people react badly to antidepressants, while side effects can seem quite mild in others.

The irony here of course is that, helpful as antidepressants may be for some people at some times, these side effects can be very depressing in themselves. Because no one antidepressant has been proven to be any more effective than any other, the choice of which drug to prescribe often rests on their different side effects. Drowsiness or dizziness, possible addiction or dependence, dry mouth or urinary retention are some of the possible side effects of muscle relaxants. Muscle relaxants are often prescribed in the treatment of acute low back pain in an attempt to improve the initial limitations in range of motion from muscle spasm and to interrupt the pain-spasm-pain cycle. Limiting muscle spasm and improving range of motion will prepare the patient for therapeutic exercise.

Muscle relaxants work by acting on the central nervous system. In the United States, they are available only with a physician's prescription. Some muscle relaxants are available in Canada without a prescription. Most come only in tablet form. However, methocarbamol (Robaxin) is available in both tablet and injectable forms. Examples of muscle relaxants are carisoprodol (Soma), chlorzoxazone (Parafon Forte DSC), cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril), and methocarbamol (Robaxin). Muscle relaxants are usually prescribed along with rest, exercise, physical therapy, or other treatments. Although the drugs may provide relief, they should never be considered a substitute for these other forms of treatment. These drugs may make the injury feel so much better that one is tempted to go back to normal activity, but doing too much too soon can actually make the injury worse. Other common side effects or muscle relaxants are vision changes, such as double vision or blurred vision; lightheadedness; drowsiness; and dry mouth.

These problems usually go away as the body adjusts to the drug and do not require medical treatment. Side-effects of muscle relaxants increase the symptom that the drug was supposed to control. This may lead people to take ever more of a symptom-producing drug in an effort to control that symptom. Muscle relaxants may interact with some other medicines. When this happens, the effects of one or both of the drugs may change or the risk of side effects of muscle relaxants may be greater. Anyone who plans to take muscle relaxants should let the physician know all other medicines, including over-the-counter or nonprescription medicines, that he or she is taking. Every medication contains chemicals that may cause side effects. Some side effects are physical, such as nausea or blurred vision, and some side effects affect mood and emotions. If someone has a mental disorder, why not check if medications cause the symptoms. List what medications are taken, and compare the medication history to the symptom history.

Ask medical professionals about the side effects of any drugs that they prescribe for you or your family.


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