Spinal muscle atrophy (SMA) is a rare genetic disorder caused by the progressive loss of nerve cells in the spine and brain that normally control muscle movement. This neurodegeneration causes progressive wasting of the muscles surrounding the spine, and can also cause muscle spasms or uncontrolled muscle contractions (spasticity).
Muscle relaxants can be used to treat this symptom and improve quality of life for SMA patients.
What are muscle relaxants?
Muscle relaxants are medications that work to ease muscle tension and reduce spasms. In normal nerve signaling, a message is sent from the brain and travels along nerve cells to muscle cells. The muscles receive this message and move accordingly. These signals are sent by changing the flow of charged particles in and out of the nerve cells, and the speed of the message is determined by hormonal signaling in the brain.
Muscle relaxants work by targeting different aspects of nerve signaling. For example, they can reduce the strength of the nerve signal being sent or the speed at which the nerve signal is transmitted. They can also slow hormonal signaling in the brain.
Treating muscle spasms in SMA
Muscle relaxants that can be used to reduce muscle spasms or tightness in SMA include baclofen, tizanidine, or benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are a class of treatments that include diazepam, alprazolam, and clonazepam, among many others.
Side effects of muscle relaxants
Common side effects of muscle relaxants include dizziness, fatigue, headache, nausea, and stomach pain. Muscle relaxants should not be combined with alcohol.
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