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What Is Tizanidine?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 23 July 2014
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Tizanidine is a high-strength prescription muscle relaxant that is commonly prescribed to treat symptoms of multiple sclerosis. The drug may also be prescribed for complications of spinal cord injuries or other diseases that affect nerve and muscle functioning. Tizanidine works by inhibiting motor neurons that would otherwise trigger contractions and spasms in skeletal muscle. The risk of side effects and other adverse reactions when taking tizanidine are relatively low compared with many other popular muscle relaxants. Most people experience major symptom relief when they take their medication exactly as directed.

Muscle relaxants such as tizanidine suppress the central nervous system. The drug enters the synaptic gaps between motor neurons and blocks the sensations that cause muscle spasms and contractions. As a result, muscles are able to stay loose and painful aches are almost instantly relieved. People who have multiple sclerosis enjoy an added benefit of being able to better engage in physical therapy while their skeletal muscles are relaxed. The combination of physical therapy and medication helps them build strength and become more active and independent in their daily lives.

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Doctors are careful when determining proper dosage amounts of tizanidine to minimize the risks of overdose and bad reactions. The standard initial dose for adult patients is four milligrams taken every six to eight hours. A physician can gauge the effectiveness of the initial dose and increase or decrease it as necessary. Single doses of more than 12 milligrams are only rarely indicated, as too much of the drug can lead to major heart, brain, or spinal cord damage.

Some people experience unwanted side effects when taking tizanidine including headaches, drowsiness, dizziness, and tingling sensations. Digestive problems such as diarrhea, constipation, or vomiting may occur with initial doses, but they usually get better in a few days once the body gets used to the medication. Less commonly, a person can also have burning or painful urination, mental confusion, or anxiety attacks. Serious complications that require emergency care can arise if tizanidine causes a sudden drop in heart rate and blood pressure.

In most cases, patients are able to take tizanidine regularly without experiencing negative side effects. It is important for people to attend frequent checkups so their doctors can evaluate symptoms and determine whether or not dosage amounts need to be adjusted. Patients with back injuries and other temporary conditions can usually stop taking the drug after a few weeks or months. Individuals with multiple sclerosis may need to stay on the medication indefinitely.

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