Muscle Relaxants for Muscle Stiffness

Muscle relaxants can be used for the management of strained necks or backs as well as for all over muscle stiffness occurring from a trauma, such as a motor vehicle accident.  It is usually used on a short term basis; however, there are some people, such as those with chronic back problems or chronic pain syndromes like fibromyalgia, that use muscle relaxants on a regular basis.
 
Muscle relaxants are not typically a single class of medication but are rather a group of separate drugs that relax the muscles of the body.  They do not act specifically on the muscles.  Instead, their action is on the brain and how it perceives muscle stiffness.  It works on the whole body and all the muscles.
 
The following are the most commonly prescribed muscle relaxants in the US:
 
Carisoprodol (Soma®).  The dose of this drug is 350 mg every 8 hours for spasms of the muscles.  It is habit forming so it is commonly used just for a few days or for a few weeks.  It should not be used with alcohol as this increases the sedative effect and increases the addictive potential of the muscle relaxant.
 
Cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril®). This medication is often used on a long term basis when compared to other muscle relaxants.  Chemically, it is related to certain antidepressant medications but it does not have any antidepressant effect itself.  It is given at 10 mg every 6 hours as needed for muscle spasms, neck or back pain.  It has a sedative effect so it does help the patient sleep better with their pain. Unfortunately, it can cause impairment of mental and physical functioning and, in men who have enlarged prostates, there can be urinary retention.
 
Diazepam (Valium®).  This is a benzodiazepine medication that is usually prescribed for only a week or so at 5 to 10 milligrams every six hours for muscle spasm, back or neck pain.  It is very addicting and because of this, it is not used for long periods of time.  It changes the wake sleep schedule and is extremely difficult to stop without side effects.  A week or two should not, however, be a problem. Valium is a depressant medication so people with depression and chronic pain stand the chance of becoming more depressed when taking diazepam.
 
Metaxalone (Skelaxin®). This is a little used muscle relaxant.

Methocarbamol (Robaxin®). This is one of the older muscle relaxants and isn’t prescribed much today.
 
All muscle relaxants have potential side effects.  The major side effects include drowsiness, sleepiness, dizziness (especially when standing), addiction or dependence possibility, dry mouth and urinary retention, both as a result of anticholinergic side effects.
 
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