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Muscle Relaxants for Back Pain and Neck Pain

A Common Treatment for Muscle Spasms

Muscle relaxants are a class of medications that treat muscle problems, such as spasms. Muscle spasms can be caused by a number of conditions, including low back pain, neck pain, and fibromyalgia. Muscle spasms can also cause these conditions. Muscle relaxants are usually prescribed for acute pain. However, they also help alleviate muscle pain caused by chronic conditions, to a lesser extent.

Muscle relaxants fall into 2 groups—anti-spastic and anti-spasmodic agents. Anti-spastics primarily treat neurological (or nerve-related) disorders, such as cerebral palsy. On the other hand, anti-spasmodics are used to treat musculoskeletal conditions, including back pain. This article will focus on anti-spasmodic agents.

Muscle Relaxants for Muscle Spasms
Muscle spasms are painful and restrict mobility, which can limit your ability to perform even basic activities.

Muscle relaxants may help reduce pain and improve mobility and range of motion, but your doctor will likely recommend that you first try acetaminophen or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). In some cases, these over-the-counter medications will be enough to alleviate your pain.

If your muscle pain persists, your doctor may prescribe one of the common muscle relaxants listed below (the generic names are listed first, with a brand name example in parentheses):

  • Carisoprodol (Soma)
  • Cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril)
  • Metaxalone (Skelaxin)
  • Methocarbamol (Robaxin)

Special Considerations
Muscle relaxants, particularly anti-spasmodic types, are usually prescribed to relieve short-term muscle pain. In the majority of cases, they should be used for no more than 2 weeks at a time.

The most common side effects associated with muscle relaxants are drowsiness and dizziness. Many patients prefer to take their dosage before bed. That way, the sedation effect actually works to their advantage.

If your muscle pain doesn't respond to over-the-counter medications, then muscle relaxants may be a good treatment option to alleviate your muscle spasms. As always, don't hesitate to discuss all medications with your doctor. A solid understanding of your treatment options is a strong defense against pain.

Updated on: 04/22/14
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