For most people, the solution for muscle pain is prescribed muscle relaxers. That’s often the easy way out, as it presents a convenient and easily accessible means to temporarily stop any pain. However, it does come with a whole set of risks, which can present more problems down the line. So instead of asking which muscle relaxer is the strongest, why not look into other ways to manage your pain?
This article introduces you to an alternative means of managing pain. Specifically, it introduces interventional pain management therapies. Instead of using painkillers and muscle relaxers to cover pain signals, interventional pain management helps get into the root cause of the pain.
Of course, this only acts as a guide for readers to make informed choices. For any instances of pain, it’s best to contact your doctor for an expert diagnosis. Better yet, reach out to Midsouth Pain Treatment Center for a professional consultation on your particular pain.
Types of Muscle Relaxers
In this article, the term “muscle relaxers” refers exclusively to spasmolytics, which is one of two groups under the muscle relaxer umbrella. The other group of muscle relaxers is called neuromuscular blockers. These are the drugs that interfere directly with neuromuscular activity and are used during intensive care, surgical procedures, and emergency treatments that require temporary paralysis to prevent further damage.
Moving forward, this article will focus on the first group, spasmolytics. Also known as centrally acting muscle relaxants, they work on the central nervous system (CNS) when reducing the transmission of pain signals. Hence, the term “centrally acting,” even if the definition is no longer completely accurate.
There are spasmolytics that work yet do not involve the CNS. Despite the developments, the terminology “centrally acting” remains in use. Even if both neuromuscular blockers and spasmolytics are collectively known as muscle relaxants, this article refers only to spasmolytics.
Causes of Muscle Pain
Muscle pain can happen suddenly. At first, one gets the feeling of a sudden contraction of the muscles. They remain in that state with no ability to relax. If you’re unlucky, you may even have a group of muscles to contract at the same time. The hardest (and most frequently) hit areas are the arms, hand, ribs, abdomen, thighs, calves, and foot arches.
They vary in severity, ranging from a slight twitch to screaming pain. Muscle pain is at best annoying, and at worst prevents normal physical activity. That’s why people often wonder which muscle relaxer is the strongest.
Below are some of the common causes for muscle pain:
- Wear and tear of muscles from repetitive activities
- Trauma received from serious physical injuries can lead to lingering pain
- Deep bruises
- Prolonged immobilization
- Poor posture
Muscle Spasms and Muscle Spasticity
Muscle pain can come in the form of muscle spasms and muscle spasticity. The more common form, muscle spasms, can happen anytime, anywhere. They can last from a few seconds to half an hour or more. It can happen anytime during physical activity, or while at rest. It can even happen while a person is asleep.
However, spasms are a common occurrence whenever someone overexerts themselves physically. This happens more frequently if the activity did not involve proper stretching beforehand. Spasms are also associated with conditions such as lower back pain, neck pain, sacroiliitis, and fibromyalgia. They can also happen when muscles reach an exhaustive state. Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance can also affect the muscles.
Meanwhile, muscle spasticity is a continuous muscle spasm that leads to tightness in the muscle. It impairs the ability to walk, talk, or move normally. Leading causes of muscle spasticity are:
- Brain or spinal cord injury
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Cerebral palsy
So, Which Muscle Relaxer Is the Strongest?
While there are many ways to treat and manage pain, many doctors prescribe muscle relaxers as an initial solution. First, treatment may consist of over-the-counter medication like paracetamol or acetaminophen. While these usually work for most people, sometimes they’re not enough.
Next, come the anti-steroidal non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium. Of course, these aren’t for continued use as there are risks involved when used too much. After these two, the doctor may prescribe a muscle relaxant instead. Often, these are given to sufferers of acute pain.
Despite their name, muscle relaxants do not work on the muscles, but rather on the brain. When determining which muscle relaxer is the strongest, you’re actually determining which has the strongest impact on your brain.
These drugs feature drowsiness as a welcome side effect. This helps patients get into a state of rest or sleep easier. Doctors prescribe muscle relaxants for a few days or a couple of weeks until the acute pain disappears. However, if the pain is described as chronic, a longer prescription may be necessary.
Doctors weigh the benefits versus the risks of each prescription on a case to case basis. Individual histories listing allergic reactions, seizures, liver issues, pregnancy or breastfeeding status (for women) are taken into consideration before a licensed practitioner can issue a prescription. When in doubt, always seek the opinion of a medical professional.
Common Muscle Relaxers
Below are five of the more common muscle relaxants often prescribed by doctors to alleviate pain. Be mindful when taking these prescription medicines. Muscle relaxers often provide a sedative effect that will impede daily activities such as operating machinery or exercise. Never take them without getting clearance from a doctor.
Carisoprodol helps alleviate musculoskeletal pain. It’s a schedule IV drug (meaning it’s a controlled substance) that is prone to abuse. While its potency usually sets within 30 minutes, its effectiveness is only known to last up to three weeks. Side effects include sleepiness, headaches, dizziness, seizures and allergic reactions.
As mentioned earlier, carisoprodol is also highly addictive and is often used in conjunction with opioids. Sold under the brand name Soma, this drug has already been banned for use in Europe since 2008 but is still actively prescribed in the US.
A medication used since the late 1970s, cyclobenzaprine helps treat muscle spasms that suddenly arise. The drug reduces pain in the first few days and works for up to two weeks. Afterward, it stops becoming effective. Common side effects include headache, fatigue, dizziness, and dry mouth. It can also cause irregular heartbeats. The sedative effects of cyclobenzaprine are very well known, so taking it during the daytime poses some risks.
Part of the benzodiazepine groups of drugs, diazepam is known for its calming effect. Despite acting more as a sedative rather than as a muscle relaxant, diazepam is a popular prescription to address muscle pain. It is a drug that can be taken orally, anally, injected in veins or muscles directly, or used as a nasal spray.
It also is habit-forming and is often abused in combination with narcotics, alcohol, or other drugs. Side effects include drowsiness and coordination issues. On rare occasions, the drug can trigger seizures and cause breathing troubles. Use of diazepam is also known to increase the incidences of self-harm and suicide.
Metaxalone is a muscle relaxant suitable for sprains, strains, and other muscle-based pain. Compared to the other muscle relaxers, Metaxalone provides a moderately strong relaxing action and produces lesser side effects. Nausea, drowsiness, vomiting, dizziness, and irritability are among the known side effects. Given the effects, elderly people are at risk of using this drug.
Methocarbamol works as a muscle relaxer by blocking pain sensations that reach the brain. Together with physical therapy and rest, it effectively provides pain relief with less sedating effects. While there are fewer incidences of overdose and abuse for methocarbamol compared to other muscle relaxers, significant risks remain. Common side effects include headaches, drowsiness, dizziness. Meanwhile, serious side effects include liver damage, seizures, anaphylaxis, and confusion.
Risk and Abuse
Most muscle relaxers work not by stopping what causes the pain, but by controlling the inhibition and excitation levels of motor neurons in the affected muscles. Muscle relaxers work by mimicking the action of naturally-occurring substances in the body, though exactly how they do so remains a challenge for researchers.
For the elderly, taking muscle relaxers can bring more harm than benefit. Senior citizens already suffer from decreased fitness levels and reduced motor skills on a daily basis. Taking a muscle relaxer could slow them down even more. With muscle relaxer side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, and confusion, the chances of older patients getting into an accident increase dramatically.
As far as patients are concerned, as long as it works, it doesn’t matter how. And as these drugs work, people grow accustomed to the lack of pain. A relaxed state can be addictive for people accustomed to pain. And, it could lead to dependence. Weaning away from muscle relaxers, or any narcotic, after a prolonged bout of addiction presents a different set of problems due to withdrawal symptoms.
Interventional Pain Therapies: A Better Alternative to Muscle Relaxers
Instead of treating pain via muscle relaxers and wondering which muscle relaxer is the strongest, why not try alternative means to manage pain? After all, most muscle relaxers do not work on the muscles, but rather through the brain. Wouldn’t you rather have a solution that addresses the root cause directly?
Interventional pain management uses pain-blocking techniques to help chronic sufferers take back some of their mobility. It is an effective alternative that reduces pain and allows patients to resume normal, daily activities.
Interventional pain management is a medical subspecialty that treats pain through invasive interventions. These interventions are aimed at the pain cycle. The methods prevent or block pain from traveling throughout the body. Interventional pain therapies can alleviate both acute and chronic pain and may represent a viable alternative if more traditional options do not work.
Types of Interventional Pain Treatments
Below are some of the more common types of interventional pain treatments. Compared to muscle relaxers, these treatments directly target where the pain originates.
They require medical examination beforehand to ascertain if the treatment is applicable and to pinpoint the area for treatment. But, they are much less invasive than a surgical procedure. Plus, they often provide immediate or near-immediate pain relief upon completion of the procedure. Even better, these pain management procedures are available at a Midsouth Pain Treatment Center near you.
Back Pain Treatments
Back pain will definitely need a complete diagnosis to root out the case and the needed treatment. There are many treatment options available for back pain treatments.
Caudal Steroid Injection
This treatment method targets the caudal area of the back located at the tailbone’s end. Treatment is applied here as the nerves that travel here contain the motor and sensory signal pathways for the lower back and legs. Caudal steroid injections consist of both steroid medication and a local anesthetic.
Celiac Plexus Block
This involves injecting pain medication to numb the celiac plexus, a bundle of nerves located near the bottom of the abdominal aorta. A Celiac Plexus Block helps manage severe aortic pain that are symptoms of certain types of cancers and pancreatitis.
Cervical Steroid Injection
This is a treatment that helps sufferers reduce the severity of neck pains. As the name implies, a cervical steroid injection involves a direct injection of steroids in the cervical spine.
Carpal Tunnel Treatment
One of the most common industrial conditions out there, carpal tunnel is pain that involves the forearm, wrist, and hand due to excessive repetitive movements. From anti-inflammatory medications to carpal tunnel release surgery, there are many options for carpal tunnel treatment. Each depends on the severity of the condition.
Dorsal Root Ganglion (DRG) treatment
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), is a very painful condition that prevents people from carrying out normal activities. It stems as an effect from a major traumatic situation, a severe body infection, or a result of surgery gone wrong. A dorsal root ganglion treatment can help reduce the pain and improve quality of life for sufferers.
Epidural Steroid Injections
Epidural steroid injections help alleviate certain chronic conditions such as Degenerative Disc Disease, Sciatica, Spinal Stenosis, and Herniated Discs. The process involves a direct steroid injection into the epidural space where the affected nerves are located.
Facet Injections to Treat Back and Neck Pain
Similar to epidural steroid injections, facet injections can help treat back and neck pain. They are used to treat Spinal Stenosis, Herniated Discs, and Spondylosis. Steroids and anesthetics will be directly injected into the facet joints of the spine, resulting in immediate relief from pain.
Medial Branch Blocks
A medial branch block is a minimally invasive procedure that offers an alternative to surgery. It helps alleviate the suffering from acute or chronic neck and back pain. This procedure directly injects steroids and anesthetic to the medial nerve area of the spine.
Radiofrequency Ablation Procedure
Radiofrequency Ablation Procedure involves the use of specialized probes placed along the body to isolate the origins of nerve pain. These same probes then deliver electric signals to disrupt specific nerve conductive abilities. RAP is used to treat back and neck pain, trigeminal neuralgia, and chronic pain syndromes.
Steroid Injection Treatments for Sacroiliac Pain
This treatment focuses on the sacroiliac joint, specifically near irritated nerve roots. A steroid injection combined with a local anesthetic usually takes 15 minutes and quickly reduces pain and inflammation. This is especially effective for the treatment of sacroiliitis, the painful inflammation in the sacroiliac joints which connects the lower spine and pelvis.
Treating Back and Whiplash Injuries
These are typical injuries common in crash crashes or sports activities. Whiplash injuries are often painful. Left untreated, they also leave the body more vulnerable to more injuries. A number of treatment options are available for whiplash injuries. They range from simple rest to a series of physical therapies to bring affected areas back to normal.
The Sympathetic block treatment specifically targets ganglion nerve bundles connected to the sympathetic nervous system, which runs throughout the human body. Sympathetic nerve block treatment directly injects corticosteroid and anesthetic medicine around the ganglion nerve bundles. They help reduce pain common in vascular, visceral, or neuropathic pain symptoms.
Superior Hypogastric Plexus Block
A superior hypogastric plexus block is a procedure that provides pain relief by introducing an anesthetic directly to the superior hypogastric plexus. This is a network of nerves and vessels that run from the vertebral column to reproductive and related organs in the lower abdomen.
Stellate Ganglion Block
A stellate ganglion block injects anesthetic medication directly to the stellate ganglion, a collection of nerves in the sixth and seventh neck vertebrae. It helps alleviate the pain caused by certain musculoskeletal conditions and injuries.
Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block
A sphenopalatine ganglion block is a minimally-invasive procedure that delivers pain medication to address both chronic and acute head and facial pain. Anesthetic medication is delivered directly into the sphenopalatine ganglion, a bundle of nerves that rests just beneath the nose. This treatment helps sufferers of migraine, cluster headaches, and trigeminal neuralgia.
Ditch Which Muscle Relaxer Is the Strongest and Turn to the MidSouth Pain Treatment Center
Your medical condition will determine the best treatment option. Based on your symptoms and your history, a qualified health professional can assess which treatment can offer the best relief. However, it will take at least a visit to the doctor to get a full examination and assessment. Luckily, you can do so easily by setting up an appointment.
Don’t let the fear of muscle relaxers or surgery prevent you from getting relief from muscle pain. There are far too many alternative options for treatment. Learn more by visiting the Midsouth Pain Treatment Center and check out various pain management options as well as to find out locations of pain management centers nearby.