Muscle relaxants may be prescribed after minimally invasive spine surgery, following a spinal cord injury, or to ease back or neck muscle spasms. These medications are also sometimes used when starting a new physical therapy routine to help with flexibility and range of motion. Benzodiazepines and other types of muscle relaxants are often used to treat acute (sudden and short-lasting) pain, although they may also be combined with other chronic pain treatments. As is the case with pain medications, certain precautions need to be taken when using muscle relaxants.
1. Stagger Usage If Also Taking Pain Medications
Pain medications and muscle relaxants shouldn’t be taken at the same time. Stagger your schedule to prevent possible interactions. The general recommendation is to take muscle relaxants first before taking pain medications. Doing so ensures some type of medication is always in your system, which may help you prevent pain spikes that sometimes occur when dosages wear off.
2. Be Careful with Drowsiness
Muscle relaxants have a sedative effect, which means they can make you feel sleepy. This can be a good thing if you take them later in the evening or right before going to bed, but not if you take them when you’re normally awake. If you haven’t taken muscle relaxants before, pay attention to how they affect you. If you experience drowsiness, avoid driving until you are taken off muscle relaxants.
3. Don’t Take Muscle Relaxants If You’re Pregnant
Muscle strain and backaches are common with pregnancy. Even so, muscle relaxants aren’t usually recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. One of the few exceptions is cyclobenzaprine, classified as a Pregnancy Category B drug by the FDA. However, it should only be used if your doctor determines the risks are less than the potential benefits.
4. Be Mindful of Side Effects
Even when taken as directed, muscle relaxants can have unexpected side effects. Let your doctor know if you are experiencing any unusual reactions while on these medications. The most common and potentially serious side effects include:
- Blurred vision
- Breathing difficulties or fainting
- Constipation and urinary issues
5. Stop Taking Muscle Relaxants Gradually
If discontinued suddenly, muscle relaxants sometimes produce withdrawal symptoms that may include nausea, vomiting, and difficulty sleeping. Your doctor will recommend a schedule to ease you off muscle relaxants by gradually decreasing the dosage to minimize the risk of withdrawal issues.
6. Be Wary of the Addictive Qualities of Muscle Relaxants
While people often associate strong painkillers (opiates) with the need to be cautious when taking certain medications, muscle relaxants can also be addictive if a dependence develops over time. They suppress breathing, so increasing the dosage could be fatal. Carisoprodol and cyclobenzaprine are among the most addictive muscle relaxants.
Muscle relaxants can be beneficial when used on a short-term basis with these precautions in mind. However, they are not the best choice for individuals with a history of addiction or depression. Follow dosage recommendations and report any unusual reactions or signs of dependence to your doctor or Beverly Hills spine surgeon. Also, consider exploring non-pharmaceutical pain management techniques to make it easier to transition off muscle relaxants.
When taking medications after spine surgery, it’s important to pay mind to your surgeon’s instructions. If you’re looking for a trusted spine surgeon in Beverly Hills, reach out to The Spine Institute Center. We specialize in wide variety of spinal procedures, from artificial disc replacement to spinal cord stimulation. Beverly Hills patients can rely on Dr. Bae to diagnose the source of their pain and help them find effective relief. To schedule an appointment, call our office at 310-828-7757.