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Since cerebral palsy affects the muscular movements of its sufferers, many medications for cerebral palsy target the muscles. A large part of drug therapy for cerebral palsy involves muscle relaxants. These drugs work in different ways to inhibit the muscles and nerves of the body. The muscle relaxants used for treating cerebral palsy work by stopping the muscles from contracting. These medications cease or lesson the severity of several major symptoms occurring in cerebral palsy patients.
The three primary drugs used in treating symptoms associated with cerebral palsy are muscle relaxants. They are Diazepam, Baclofen, and Dantrolene.
Diazepam is a benzodiazepine, a type of muscle relaxant used for cerebral palsy treatment. Diazepam is also known by the name Valium. Diazepam works by focusing on GABA receptors in the brain, helping to release the neurotransmitter chemical called GABA. This neurotransmitter is naturally occurring in the brain and is used as a calming agent by the brain. The effects of a GABA release are sleepiness, calming of the muscles, and a relaxation. The drug acts on muscle contractions in the cerebral palsy patient, relaxing them.
Baclofen is another muscle relaxant that is used in treating symptoms of cerebral palsy. This drug is used to relax muscle spasms, which result in stiff muscles and limbs. This stiffening can cause a number of problems for the cerebral palsy patient. While Diazepam works in the brain, Baclofen works in the spinal cord, binding to GABA-B receptors. The effect this binding has is that it lowers the amount of signals being sent to the muscles from the spinal cord. During Baclofen treatment, the muscle is more flexible and may respond to physical therapy better than before Baclofen treatment.
Dantrolene is another drug that relaxes the muscles and may provide relief for people suffering from cerebral palsy. Dantrolene sodium lessons the calcium concentration in the muscles around the bones (skeletal muscle). The muscles become less sensitive to signals from the brain and spinal cord. The chemical workings of Dantrolene are not fully understood, but the effects are generally seen as safe.
Another muscle relaxant called Flexeril is also sometimes used to ease the pain associated with muscle contractions. Flexeril is only prescribed for short-term use, however, and is not generally used for cerebral palsy.
There are several side effects of the muscle relaxants for cerebral palsy and your doctor should monitor them very closely. Chief among these is a dependence on the drugs, in which case the side effects of withdrawal could compound cerebral palsy symptoms. In all cases, long-term use of muscle relaxants for cerebral palsy has seen significant results in improvements of motor function, pain relief, and spasticity associated with cerebral palsy.