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A muscle relaxant is a drug that affects skeletal muscle function and decreases the muscle tone.It may be used to alleviate symptoms such as muscle spasms, pain, and hyperreflexia.They are often used during surgical procedures and in intensive care and emergency medicine to cause temporary paralysis.Spasmolytics, also known as "centrally acting" muscle relaxants, are used to alleviate musculoskeletal pain and spasms and to reduce spasticity in a variety of neurological conditions.Other skeletal muscle relaxants of that type used around the world come from a number of drug categories and other drugs used primarily for this indication include orphenadrine (anticholinergic), chlorzoxazone, tizanidine (clonidine relative), diazepam, tetrazepam and other benzodiazepines, mephenoxalone, methocarbamol, dantrolene, baclofen, Drugs once but no longer or very rarely used to relax skeletal muscles include meprobamate, barbiturates, methaqualone, glutethimide and the like; some subcategories of opioids have muscle relaxant properties, and some are marketed in combination drugs with skeletal and/or smooth muscle relaxants such as whole opium products, some ketobemidone, piritramide and fentanyl preparations and Equagesic.
This poison, known today as curare, led to some of the earliest scientific studies in pharmacology.
Its active ingredient, tubocurarine, as well as many synthetic derivatives, played a significant role in scientific experiments to determine the function of acetylcholine in neuromuscular transmission.
The term "muscle relaxant" is used to refer to two major therapeutic groups: neuromuscular blockers and spasmolytics.
Neuromuscular blockers act by interfering with transmission at the neuromuscular end plate and have no central nervous system (CNS) activity.
While both neuromuscular blockers and spasmolytics are often grouped together as muscle relaxants, The earliest known use of muscle relaxant drugs was by natives of the Amazon Basin in South America who used poison-tipped arrows that produced death by skeletal muscle paralysis.
This was first documented in the 16th century, when European explorers encountered it.