Alternative Treatments to Muscle Relaxants

woman holding neck with muscle pain highlighted with red dots

If you’ve ever wrenched your back doing home repairs or pulled a muscle or pinched a nerve in your neck, you know the terrible feeling of musculoskeletal pain. Injuries can also occur in the arms, feet, groin, stomach and other areas. And it may feel impossible to find relief from the discomfort.

Muscle relaxants are commonly prescribed for muscle spasms and acutely painful musculoskeletal conditions. A combination of sedative and musculoskeletal relaxant properties relieves the pain. These medications are supposed to be used for a short time, just to address acute pain. But some people overuse or misuse them, and this can lead to muscle relaxer addiction.

There are over a dozen kinds of prescription muscle relaxers. Rodaxin, Flexeril, Lorzone and Soma are among them. Soma addiction, and muscle relaxer addiction overall, is becoming more widespread. Soma addiction should not occur if the medication is used as directed, but there is evidence that some people use prescription muscle relaxers along with alcohol or drugs like codeine or hydrocodone that interact with the narcotic aspect of the muscle relaxer.

Non-Narcotic Treatment Options

Pain can interfere with your ability to sit, rest or sleep comfortably, but muscle relaxers are not a cure-all. When prescribed, it is often in conjunction with physical therapy to try to heal the injury. But, because of the dangers of muscle relaxer addiction, many people seek alternative treatments. Here are some of the most popular:

1. Heat and cold therapy

Most muscle injuries can be helped with ice immediately after they occur and for the following 24 hours. If you keep an icepack on the area for twenty minutes and off for twenty minutes, it can often reduce swelling and prevent swelling from getting worse. On the following day, physicians often recommend heat therapy on the area, using heat packs or a heating pad. There are special reusable hot and cold packs you can buy that can be put in the freezer when you need cold and in the microwave for heat.

2. Pain patches

Lidocaine, also known as xylocaine and lignocaine, is often used to numb tissue in a particular area. It is available by prescription as a pain patch that adheres to the injured part of the body, and can also be found in spray form. There are now a number of over-the-counter versions of this medicine that contain Lidocaine and other ingredients that numb the pain for several hours, allowing you to move more freely. These patches often provide relief but you have to remind yourself of the injury so that you don’t overexert yourself.

3. Osteopathic adjustment

This can only be done by a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy), who is also a qualified medical doctor. It involves lying down on a table so the doctor can realign your body through manipulation and massage. It involves moving joints back into place and working with soft tissue to help relax muscles. The osteopath doesn’t just treat the injured area but all the areas around it and it often feels as if they are stretching and twisting everything to get at that one area of pain. Realigning the whole body can often reduce pain and discomfort in the affected area almost immediately.

4. Medical massage

When you sustain a sudden injury or trauma, it often knocks your whole body out of balance. Maybe a foot injury is forcing you to limp, or a back injury has you bent over to one side. Everything begins to tense up. A massage therapist can work carefully around the sore area to release the tension that has built in the muscles; they can then work directly on the painful area. This may not be suitable immediately after an injury if it is too tender to touch, but a couple of days later a good massage can begin to undo the pain and the related tension.

5. Physical therapy

Many doctors suggest physical therapy if your injury becomes chronic or takes a longer time to heal. In physical therapy, you will be shown exercises and stretching techniques to strengthen the area that has been weakened. Physical therapists also use hot and cold therapy, massage and other techniques to help reduce pain and show you how to work on it at home.

6. Rest

People are often anxious to make the pain go away and get back into the swing of things, but any kind of physical injury or trauma needs time to heal. Sometimes turning off cell phones and crawling into bed, or just taking it easy and not putting pressure on yourself to move, can help.

There are many ways to cope with pain without muscle relaxers, which will help you avoid the risk of muscle relaxer addiction. Reducing stress with mindfulness meditation and yoga should also be considered.

 

Sources:

“Muscle Relaxants for Nonspecific Low Back Pain” – Wolters Kluwer
https://journals.lww.com/spinejournal/Abstract/2003/09010/Muscle_Relaxants_for_Nonspecific_Low_Back_Pain__A.14.aspx

“The Attitudes and Beliefs of UK Osteopaths Towards the Management of Low Back Pain” – International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine
https://www.journalofosteopathicmedicine.com/article/S1746-0689(12)00076-4/abstract?code=ijosm-site

“Comparison of Spinal Manipulation Methods and Usual Medical Care for Acute and Subacute Low Back Pain” – International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine
https://www.journalofosteopathicmedicine.com/article/S1746-0689(15)00040-1/fulltext

“Pharmacokinetics and Tolerability of Lidocaine Patch with Extended Dosing” – Sage Journals
http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1345/aph.1A185

“A Review of the Evidence for the Effectiveness, Safety, and Cost of Acupuncture, Massage Therapy, and Spinal Manipulation for Back Pain” – Annals of Internal Medicine
http://annals.org/aim/article-abstract/716463/review-evidence-effectiveness-safety-cost-acupuncture-massage-therapy-spinal-manipulation

“Ice Freezes Pain? A Review of the Clinical Effectiveness of Analgesic Cold Therapy” – ScienceDirect.com
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0885392494901503

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