Antispasmodics (Muscle Relaxants) for Cerebral Palsy
How It Works
Antispasmodic medicines relax muscles and
reduce muscle spasms. Specifically, diazepam relaxes the brain and body,
baclofen blocks signals between the spinal cord and the muscles, and dantrolene
interferes with muscle contraction.
Why It Is Used
Antispasmodics are used before
physical therapy for
cerebral palsy or at bedtime to help relax tight
muscles and stop muscle spasms. Diazepam helps relax muscles
after orthopedic surgery.
How Well It Works
Antispasmodics can help
relax muscles temporarily. Diazepam may be of some
use in people with CP whose emotional stress contributes to their spasms or
The most common side effects of oral
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug
Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
These medicines may become
ineffective when used over long periods.
Children taking these
medicines may have difficulty paying attention in school. The long-term effects
of oral antispasmodics on children have not been studied enough to guarantee
Dantrolene may cause liver damage.
Frequent blood tests are needed to check liver functioning when a person is
taking this medicine.
Diazepam cannot be used in
people who have
Baclofen may also be
given directly into the fluid surrounding the spinal cord (intrathecal
baclofen). A small pump is placed under the skin of the abdomen. Medicine is
carried through a tube attached to the pump into the fluid surrounding the
spinal cord. The pump is programmed to release a continuous amount of medicine.
So far, the benefits of giving baclofen this way include:
- Reduced medicine needs. Because intrathecal
baclofen is given right into the spinal fluid, it takes less medicine to be
effective than with pills. This reduces side effects such as nausea and
drowsiness, which are a problem with the oral form of the medicine.
- Improved muscle tone and function.
Disadvantages of using baclofen through a pump include the
- Surgery is needed to place the pump under the
skin in the abdomen.
- The pump and surgery are
- After the pump is inserted, it needs to be filled with
medicine every 2 to 3 months.
- The insertion of the pump carries a
risk of infection.
- In rare cases, problems with the pump, such as
failure or breakage, result in sudden withdrawal. Symptoms such as itching,
spasticity, and rapid heartbeat may be noticed. Other
malfunctions can cause an overdose and lead to breathing problems and
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
Wollack JB, Nichter CA (2003). Cerebral palsy section
of Static Encephalopathies. In CD Rudolph, AM Rudolph, eds., Rudolph's Pediatrics, 21st ed., pp. 2197-2202. New York: