SMRs: So Muscles can Relax

One day, Carol, a 32 year-old preschool teacher suddenly felt a strange tightness at the right side of her body while walking on the way to school. Previously, she had to endure terrible head aches while doing her lesson plan. She wondered is these two painful incidents were somehow connected or whether these were signs of a more serious health problem.

At the end of the school year, she took a vacation to spend more time her family. But another reason she had to take a furlough was to get a much-needed medical examination. She wanted to know the reason behind the mysterious “stiffness” she felt on her body, and this she could do by going to a trusted doctor.

Getting a medical check-up was something she could no longer afford to delay. She already felt uneasy, even worried, about the sudden attacks of head aches that had haunted her for the last two years. To help relieve the pain, she always took cold showers. She thought that the cold water would somehow soothe the painful headaches. One time, while taking a shower, she accidentally slipped. That nearly fatal slip landed her in a hospital where she had to undergo a CT scan. The doctor, wanting to make sure of the diagnosis, advised her to go through another procedure called Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI.

The plate from the MRI showed that Carol developed “arachnoid cysts” at the back of her head. Arachnoid cysts are cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF) covered by arachnoid cells and collagen that may develop at the surface of the brain and the cranial base, or on the arachnoid membrane, one of the three membranes that cover the brain and the spinal cord. The presence of arachnoid cysts is a congenital disorder that may start during pregnancy, but the symptoms of having arachnoid cysts may be delayed and only felt until adolescence.

Carol had an operation to remove the cysts. Since the cysts were located near the brain, her gait, sight, and speech were greatly affected. After the operation, the effects of the surgery were so apparent that one would even think that she just had a stroke.

To speed up her recovery, her neurosurgeon prescribed a skeletal muscle relaxant to help reduce the “stiffness” in her body. According to the neurosurgeon, the stiffness was actually a spasm, or a sudden, involuntary contraction of a muscle or group of muscles. The doctor prescribed a muscle relaxant called Baclofen which is also sold under the brand names of Kemstro and Lioresal. The drug causes a relaxant effect on the spinal cord which allows the brain to send signals and control the movements of the different parts of the body.

Like Carol, thousands of patients have benefited from Baclofen and its relaxing properties. The said drug can be taken orally or “intrathetically” which means it can be administered directly onto the spinal fluid. A patient experiencing spasticity or tightness of muscles is specifically advised to administer the medicine intrathetically because this would allow the drug to go directly near the spine where it is needed. Baclofen is one of the most commonly prescribed skeletal muscle relaxant drugs available in the market today.

Skeletal Muscle Relaxants or SMR are classified under a group of muscle relaxants often used to relieve stiffness and other symptoms related to muscle tissue injury. The SMR acts in the central nervous system (CNS) to produce muscle relaxant effects. The drug is intended to be used on a short-term basis and is prescribed by doctors during the early part of a patient’s treatment program. Most SMRs are in tablet form but a prescription injection is also available. The most common SMRs are Carisoprodol, Chlorphenesin, Chlorzoxazone, Metaxalone, and Methocarbamol. The dosage of these medications may be different from one patient to another. However, before you proceed to take these medicines, there are certain considerations that you might need to know.

Advise the doctor if you have any reactions to muscle relaxants or if you have any allergies on certain food or preservatives.

Tell the doctor if you are expecting a baby. Although studies have shown that SMRs do not cause birth defects, it is still better to be sure than sorry.

Experts say that Carisoprodol can pass from a breast milk and may cause the baby to be drowsy and may cause upset stomach.

The presence of other medical problems might also cause an effect in the use of SMR. If you are suffering from medical conditions stated below, make sure to tell the doctor:

Kidney problems

Liver disease

Drug abuse



Always remember that there are risks in taking these medicines. If you need to take this kind of drugs for a long time, pay a regular visit to the doctor to monitor your progress. Long term use of these medicines are discouraged by physicians as it might possibly lead to abuse and dependency. These medicines are to be taken in moderation and as always, with doctor’s authorization. Skeletal muscle relaxants work to relax our rigid muscles.

Like Carol, a person who experiences unusual symptoms and other signs of illness should immediately go to a doctor. A symptom like sudden stiffness in the body can cause so much worry. But with professional help, that stiffness can be examined and treated, if necessary.

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