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Use of Muscle Relaxers for Lower Back Pain

By David Altfeder

Lower back pain (also called lumbar pain or backache) is very common. Virtually everyone at some time in their life experiences a backache. Except for the common cold, backaches account for more doctor visits and more missed days of work than any other illness. Typically, lower back pain sufferers experience a sharp pain or dull ache, occasionally accompanied by a tingling or burning sensation. The pain can result from a specific event such as lifting something which is too heavy, but often can be the result of numerous factors which weaken the back, such as sitting in a single position too long, then making a sudden movement. Most commonly, backaches are the result of a muscle strain (where the muscle fibers are stretched or torn) or a lumbar sprain (where the ligaments which tie muscles to bone separate from their attachments). Many problems can result in a backache including herniated, ruptured or degenerated intervertebral disks, structural problems like improper spinal alignment and scoliosis, or pain radiating from the testes, ovaries, kidneys and other tissues. Frequently, the specific structure causing the pain is not identified.

Regardless of the cause, lower back pain typically involves spasms of the muscles along the spine, where the muscles tighten and do not release. These spasms and the associated stiffness can result in severe pain, often leaving patients unable to walk or move normally.

To reduce the pain, a wide range of choices are available. These include applying ice for the first 2-3 days, followed by heat. Over the counter medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) may provide relief. Many physicians will prescribe Soma (or its generic form carisprodol) to relieve the muscle spasms.

Soma is a muscle relaxant used to relieve the pain and stiffness of muscle spasms and discomfort due to strain and sprain. It blocks signals between nerves in the brain and the spinal cord. It's action is not completely understood- Soma does not directly relax tense skeletal muscles. Its action may be related to its sedative properties instead. Regardless of the mechanism of action, for many patients the reduction of muscle spasm associated with lower back pain brings considerable relief. For these patients, the back relaxes, pain is reduced, and their ability function normally is enhanced.

Soma comes in a 350 mg round, white tablet. Its onset of action is rapid, and it effects last 4-6 hours. The usual dose is one 350mg tablet 3 times per day and at bedtime. Many patients now order this medication from online pharmacies without visiting a physician in person, so it is important to understand which back symptoms should cause you to visit a physician first. If you experience any of the following symptoms, consult a physician.

- Loss of bladder or bowel control

- Severe back pain following trauma like an object hitting you or a fall

- Fever

- Redness or swelling of the back

- Pain which radiates below the knee

- Weakness or numbness in the leg or pelvis

- Blood in the urine or a burning sensation when urinating

- Very severe pain

It is also important to be aware of the side effects of Soma to assure you are taking it safely and to avoid adverse reactions. Soma is a sedative and can cause drowsiness, dizziness, vertigo, agitation, irritability, headache and insomnia. Occasional allergic reactions are known to occur, including a skin rash and itching. Like all medications, there are very rare idiosyncratic reactions as well. Avoid taking Soma when drinking alcohol, as the alcohol will greatly increase the sedative effect of the medication. Avoid driving or operating machinery when taking this medication.

Lower back pain tends to resolve on its own. Most patients feel significantly better one week after the first onset of pain. After 4-6 weeks, the pain is typically completely resolved.

Copyright 2005 David Altfeder

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