It is very common to have neck or back pain that requires medical attention. If you’ve ever wrenched your back, you know how debilitating it can be to your daily routine, affecting your quality of life. Most of us try to use home remedies to feel better, like taking over-the-counter medications, resting, stretching, or even getting help from a physical therapist, but there are times when you just need more.
Those times are when you are dealing with back muscle spasms or cramps caused by injury, muscle pain, fatigue, stress, and overuse in your neck or back. Having a muscle spasm means that one or more of your muscles is contracting, and the twitching or cramping is out of your control and can cause pain.
The causes of back muscle spasms are strain or injury to the soft tissues in the spine or an underlying anatomical problem. If spasms don’t resolve in a few weeks or continually come and go, there may be an underlying condition like osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, or a herniated disc. It’s always best to consult with Dr. Manvar to help diagnose the pain and provide proper treatment.
If it is a muscle spasm, home remedies, such as over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, are the first line of defense to treat your pain. These are ideal because they reduce inflammation, which is the ultimate cause of the pain. If that fails, and the spasms are not resolving on their own with rest, icing, hydration, and proper nutrition, the second line of defense is for Dr. Manvar or your PCP to prescribe muscle relaxers. When used safely and according to doctor’s orders, they can be very beneficial.
Since muscle spasms are typically healed within two to three weeks, a doctor typically will only prescribe a muscle relaxant for acute rather than chronic pain. They are usually not intended for prolonged use.
Muscle relaxers treat spasms by inhibiting nerve signals to the brain and spinal cord to stop the spasm-pain message going to the brain. When taking the medication, most people feel very relaxed and often drowsy or sleepy, which is why they are typically taken at night.
Because of the nature of what the medication is intended to do, which is to calm down a spastic muscle, there are side effects of muscle relaxants.
Side Effects include:
- Tiredness, drowsiness
- Fatigue or weakness
- Dry mouth
- Decreased blood pressure
Muscle relaxants used properly can provide effective pain relief. While taking them, you should avoid alcohol and operating any heavy machinery until you know how you will respond to them. It is unsafe to take a muscle relaxer without following the recommendations on the prescription label. Prolonged usage can lead to physical addiction problems, which is why they are recommended for short-term use to calm a spastic muscle.
The most commonly prescribed and also considered the best muscle relaxants are:
- Methocarbamol (Robaxin) This is an effective, less expensive, and less sedating muscle relaxant without serious side effects
- Cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril) This is an inexpensive generic option, but can cause sleepiness
- Zanaflex (Tizanidine) This muscle relaxant has sedative side effects and should not be used in people over the age of 65
In addition to muscle relaxers, Dr. Manvar at Integrative Pain & Spine Institute often uses an innovative technique called trigger point injections, which zero in on the painful muscle and treat the targeted area instead of sedating the entire body with a muscle relaxer. It is a safer and generally more effective alternative to pain relief.
If you are experiencing back or neck pain, book an appointment with Dr. Manvar today! 704-317-1440