Muscle Relaxants

Muscle Relaxant Pills

Muscle relaxants are a class of medications that are used to relax or reduce muscle spasms and stiffness, which can help alleviate pain. They can work by different mechanisms, but some of them work by inhibiting the action of a neurotransmitter in the spinal cord, called acetylcholine, which is involved in the contraction of muscles. They are often prescribed in combination with other medications, such as pain relievers, to help manage muscle spasms or pain caused by conditions such as sprains, and strains.

Examples of Muscle Relaxants

Examples of muscle relaxants include:

  • Cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril)
  • Carisoprodol (Soma)
  • Metaxalone (Skelaxin)
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Baclofen (Lioresal)

Different Classes of Muscle Relaxants

Different types of muscle relaxants are used for back pain and they work in different ways. They are generally classified into two main categories:

  1. Spasmolytics: These medications work by blocking the nerve impulses that cause muscle spasms. Spasmolytics are often used to treat conditions such as lower back pain caused by muscle spasms. Examples of spasmolytics include baclofen, tizanidine and dantrolene.
  2. Sedative muscle relaxants: These medications work by depressing the central nervous system and helping to reduce muscle tension. Sedative muscle relaxants are often used to treat conditions such as muscle spasms, strains and sprains. Examples of sedative muscle relaxants include cyclobenzaprine, carisoprodol, diazepam, and chlorzoxazone.

Side Effects of Muscle Relaxants

Muscle relaxants can have a number of side effects, including:

  • Drowsiness and sedation
  • Dizziness and vertigo
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion

It’s important to note that these medications can cause drowsiness and impair cognitive function, so it’s recommended not to operate heavy machinery or drive while taking these medications.

Muscle relaxants should be used at the lowest effective dosage for the shortest possible duration of time to minimize the risk of adverse effects.

Who should avoid taking muscle relaxants?

Muscle relaxants should be used with caution in certain groups of people, and in some cases, may be contraindicated.

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women: Some muscle relaxants may not be safe for use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, as they may cause harm to the developing fetus or newborn. Here are some alternative treatments for pregnant women with back pain.
  • History of drug abuse: People with a history of drug abuse may be at a higher risk of becoming addicted to muscle relaxants and should use them with caution.
  • Liver or kidney disease: Muscle relaxants may be metabolized or excreted by the liver and kidneys, so people with these conditions may not be able to tolerate the same dose as someone without these conditions.
  • Myasthenia gravis: Muscle relaxants can worsen the symptoms of this condition, which affects the muscles and nerves.
  • Sleep apnea: Some muscle relaxants can cause respiratory depression, and should be avoided by people with sleep apnea.

Are muscle relaxants right for me?

Muscle relaxants can be effective in treating conditions such as muscle spasms, back pain, and spasticity, but they may not be appropriate for everyone. The decision to use muscle relaxants should be made in consultation with a healthcare professional who is familiar with your medical history and current condition.

Muscle relaxants should be used with caution, and only under the guidance of a healthcare provider, as they can be habit-forming, particularly if they are taken in high doses, or for long periods of time.

About the Author

Dave Harrison, MD

Dr. Harrison is a board certified Emergency Physician with a part time appointment at San Francisco General Medical Center and is an Assistant Clinical Professor-Volunteer at the UCSF School of Medicine. Dr. Harrison attended medical school at Tufts University and completed his Emergency Medicine residency at the University of Southern California. Dr. Harrison manages the editorial process for