Muscle relaxers are a group of medications that are most commonly prescribed for spasms and pain due to musculoskeletal conditions such as muscle strains, tension headaches, fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome. They are also used for spasticity due to neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy. Be aware of the side effects of muscle relaxers because they can affect your workout or make exercise dangerous.
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There are two types of muscle relaxers: antispasmodic and antispastic. Antispasmodic relaxants are used to treat muscle spasms due to musculoskeletal conditions, such as low-back pain. The most commonly prescribed antispasmodics include Flexeril, Soma, Skelaxin, Robaxin, Norflex, Zanaflex and Valium. Antispastic relaxants are used to treat spasticity due to neurological conditions, such as cerebral palsy. The most commonly prescribed antispastics include Dantrium and Lioresal.
Muscle Relaxers and Exercise
Although there is little in the way of literature advising for or against the use of muscle relaxers while exercising, common sense should prevail. The most common side effect of muscle relaxers is drowsiness. Exercising while feeling drowsy can be dangerous when using exercise equipment, such as treadmills, and can lead to injury. Drowsiness can also diminish the effectiveness of your workout by causing you to fatigue early. Other side effects of muscle relaxers, such as dizziness and temporary loss of vision, may prove to be equally dangerous while working out. This can affect your balance and potentially result in head injuries.
The American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society recommend that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, or NSAIDs, be used as a first-line modality for musculoskeletal conditions. If you do not achieve adequate pain relief with NSAIDs, then you may try taking a muscle relaxer. It is best to take your muscle relaxer before bedtime to minimize the sedative effects.
Muscle relaxers are indicated for short-term use only and should not be used longer than two weeks for acute musculoskeletal conditions. Due to the risk of side effects, drug interactions and addiction, muscle relaxants should not be used alone as treatment for acute musculoskeletal conditions. They should be used in conjunction with other treatments, such as physical therapy or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories.
Certain muscle relaxers, such as Flexeril, are known to have greater sedative properties than others, such as Skelaxin. Until you know how your body reacts to muscle relaxers, you should not exercise, drive or operate heavy machinery. Talk to your doctor to determine whether exercise is appropriate for you. Other potential side effects of muscle relaxers may include gastrointestinal irritation, discoloration of urine, respiratory depression, dizziness and dry mouth.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- American Academy of Family Physicians: Choosing a Skeletal Muscle Relaxant
- Annals of Internal Medicine: Diagnosis and Treatment of Low Back Pain: A Joint Clinical Practice Guideline from the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society
- Spine Universe: Muscle Relaxants in the Treatment of Acute Low Back Pain