Baclofen vs. Flexeril: Which Muscle Relaxer Is Stronger?

Last Updated: May 28, 2021

Authored by Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Baclofen, also known as Lioresal, Liofen, or Gablofen, is a gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) agonist and belongs to the class of drugs called skeletal muscle relaxants. There’s an oral version of it and one that can be injected directly into the spinal cord.

Flexeril, also known as Cyclobenzaprine, Amrix, and Fexmid, is also a drug belonging to the same class and is used orally.

Since the two drugs are similar, there’s often confusion on which one is better or stronger: Baclofen or Flexeril. So read along to have a comprehensive comparison of Baclofen vs. Cyclobenzaprine.

What are These Drugs Known to Treat?

The comparison between Baclofen vs. cyclobenzaprine starts at what conditions they’re known to treat. Lioresal is used for managing muscle spasticity in multiple sclerosis. This drug is an antispastic medication used primarily to treat muscle clonus, pain, rigidity, and spasm in muscles in case of multiple sclerosis. It is also indicated in spinal cord problems, treating alcoholism, and CNS lesions. There is decreased susceptibility to CNS depression with this antispastic agent.

Man with medications reading instruction for Baclofen use.

Flexeril (Cyclobenzaprine) is indicated for treating pain and muscle spasms related to short-term skeletal problems and muscle pain. Cyclobenzaprine is a tricyclic antidepressant derivative. It acts on the brain stem region, relieving short-term musculoskeletal pain and improves mobility.

Gablofen is usually prescribed as a long-term treatment for people suffering from long-term diseases such as multiple sclerosis. The medications are not to be used interchangeably because they’re meant to be used for different types of treatments. Whether the patient goes for Baclofen or Flexeril depends on what they need it for.

Flexeril vs. Baclofen Side Effects

Since both of these drugs affect the skeletal muscles, they are not available over the counter; they shouldn’t be taken lightly. These drugs can help relieve muscular pain symptoms, but they come with their range of side effects. Therefore, there needs to be a closer look at Flexeril vs. Baclofen to weigh out the side effects of each.

Baclofen Adverse Effects that Are Similar to Flexeril Include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Constipation

Both of these drugs work similarly, which also means that most of the side effects of Flexeril vs. Baclofen are the same. However, that doesn’t mean all of them are the same. Some side effects are unique to the specific drug and how it reacts in the patient’s body.

The Table Below Provides the List of the Side Effects Which Are Different For Baclofen vs. Flexeril:

What are the side effects of Flexeril that are different from Baclofen? What are the side effects of Gablofen that are different from Flexeril?
Dry Mouth Vomiting
Blurred Vision Weakness
Abdominal discomfort or pain Seizures
Acid reflux Urinary retention or frequent urge to urinate
Nervousness Insomnia or difficulty in falling asleep
Unpleasant taste Hypotension
Fatigue Respiratory difficulties

Is Baclofen Stronger Than Flexeril?

Because of the similarities between the two drugs, there’s often a question of which one between Flexeril vs. Baclofen is stronger.

Is Baclofen stronger than Flexeril? Before we determine it, we have to compare the two. Cyclobenzaprine intake is expected only for short-term use, and patients cannot take it for longer than 2-3 weeks at a time. Lioresal, on the other hand, can be used long-term for individuals having multiple sclerosis. It helps to manage the signs and symptoms effectively.

Although the two are muscle relaxants, their indications are different. The strength of the two depends on the dosage and purpose for which each drug is used, so it isn’t easy to compare the strength of Baclofen vs. Flexeril.

In the case of multiple sclerosis, Lioresal is the drug of choice. However, for acute muscle pain and relief of spasms, Flexeril remains the primary medication.

On the other hand, while Flexeril is available as oral tablets only, Lioresal can be given intrathecally via Gablofen pump – a device placed surgically inside the body for continuous drug delivery.

Differences in the Mechanism of Action

Both drugs belong to skeletal muscle relaxants, and both of them aim to give relief from muscle spasms. Still, Gablofen acts primarily on the spinal cord, and Flexeril acts centrally, causing muscle relaxation. There are differences that set Baclofen vs. cyclobenzaprine apart.

Lioresal is capable of minimizing the severity and frequency of muscle spasms and co-occurring pain. The effect of Lioresal, when taken regularly, is seen quickly within a few days. But in most cases where it is prescribed, like when you use it for back pain, multiple sclerosis, spasticity, and others, it has to be taken for a long term.

The efficacy of the Flexeril 5 mg tablet, which is the standard dose given three times per day, is found to be connected to the sedative effect of the medication. All short-term muscle spasms and other related conditions can be treated with Flexeril.

Overdose Possibilities of Baclofen vs. Flexeril

Overdose on Gablofen occurs when the daily dose exceeds 200 mg and triggers neurological effects, delirium, seizures, and coma. The dose needs to be gradually increased and tapered to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Woman sitting on sofa choosing pills.

A Flexeril overdose occurs when taken in more significant amounts than its prescribed level of 30 mg per day. Overdose can also happen when they both are mixed with alcohol or other drugs. Flexeril is a relatively safe drug, and usually overdoses are not very serious.

Pregnancy Warnings

According to the FDA, Lioresal belongs to the C pregnancy category. That means the effects of doses of Lioresal medication on pregnant women have not been studied yet. Lioresal is known to cause fetal harm due to animal data. The drug is found in breast milk in traces of lactating mothers taking it orally. There isn’t any information available about Gablofen pregnancy effects when the drug is taken intrathecally. Whether the mother is taking Baclofen or Flexeril, she must do so after discussing it with the doctor in charge of treatment.

Abuse Potential

Since both of these drugs, cyclobenzaprine vs. Baclofen, can affect how the patient’s muscles work, it is assumed that they’re strong enough to cause addictions on their own. Flexeril doesn’t have a lot of potential for misuse when taken on its own since it doesn’t provide the user with any psychoactive effects. So there’s less of a chance that someone will misuse it. However, there are some indications that show that it can be intentionally misused.

A hand holding pills.

As for Baclofen, it is also uncommon for this drug to be misused. However, the misuse isn’t unheard of. In the past ten years, there have been a few cases of Gablofen abuse. Notably, a case from 2016, where a 24-year-old male who was addicted to smoking was prescribed the drug as part of his addiction treatment and given a low dose prescription of Baclofen. He ended up abusing the drug, taking around 600 mg every single day. He was then put on treatment and slowly tapered off the drug.

Drug Interactions of Baclofen vs. Flexeril

Both Gablofen and Flexeril are potent drugs on their own, which is why it’s important that the patient sticks to their medical dosage and informs their physician or medical health professional if they’re taking anything else that could potentially interact with the drugs. Both Flexeril vs. Baclofen can have minor, moderate, or major interactions, leading to extreme side effects or even death.

Baclofen Interactions

When taken along with other drugs, it can cause increased suppression of brain function. Particularly taking tricyclic antidepressants with Lioresal may lead to muscle weakness. Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors, if taken with Baclofen, cause lower blood pressure and marked brain function depression. Other drugs to avoid are opioids, Methadone and Buprenorphine. While taking Lioresal, alcoholic beverages should be avoided as Gablofen causes drowsiness and dizziness, which can worsen with alcohol intake.

Flexeril Interactions

Flexeril should not be taken with Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors or even within two weeks of taking an MAOI. The adverse effects caused by the combination include convulsions, high fever, and even death. Flexeril interaction with alcohol, narcotics, benzodiazepines such as diazepam and lorazepam, and barbiturates can slow down the brain’s functions.

Gablofen Compared to Other Muscle Relaxants

Lioresal is a popular and first-choice treatment for muscle spasticity caused by spinal cord injuries or multiple sclerosis. However, it is not recommended for other types of muscle spasms. Apart from the specific muscle spasms caused by brain injury or multiple sclerosis, Lioresal is not the best medicine to take. There are many alternatives available to Baclofen, but they treat only a specific type of muscle pain.

Baclofen vs. Methocarbamol

An option that is easy on the pocket and comparatively less sedating too is Methocarbamol. Methocarbamol has been studied for back pain, and results show it can result in complete pain relief. It can be a reliable alternative. Gablofen is a better option for spasticity and spinal cord diseases, while Robaxin is used mainly for muscle spasm issues.

Baclofen vs. Phenibut

Both Phenibut and Gablofen are derived from GABA, but Gablofen is often prescribed for muscle spasticity and phenibut for anxiety. Therefore, they are different in their indications

Baclofen vs. Soma

Also known as Carisoprodol, Soma, much like Xanax, has the potential for being abused and therefore should be stopped if there is a concern or a patient’s predisposition to substance abuse. Choosing Gablofen over Soma is normal as Soma offers greater side effects. Also, avoid using Soma in people over 65 and always go for better options if available. Even if prescribed, use only for two to three weeks as prolonged use has no evidence of showing effectiveness.

Baclofen vs. Zanaflex

Also known as Tizanidine, Zanaflex is used for spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy. The Tizanidine vs. Baclofen 10 pill comparison shows us that the latter has fewer side effects than Lioresal but the same level of effectiveness. However, it is not a first-line choice for back muscle pain or acute neck pain.

Baclofen OTC Alternatives

Gablofen over-the-counter alternatives can also be used as therapy for muscle spasms caused by acute lower back pain, tension headaches, or other similar conditions in different patients. Over the counter means that this medicine can be bought without a prescription, unlike Baclofen, which should be tried before one looks towards prescription medications.

However, it does not mean that people should use OTC alternatives without visiting a doctor or medical health professional. It is highly recommended not to practice self-medication and always get correct medical supervision.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are an OTC choice that can be used to treat muscle spasms and pain. Examples include Ibuprofen and Naproxen. Acetaminophen is another Gablofen OTC alternative that works well to help relieve muscle pain.

Here Is a List of Some Popular Gablofen OTC Alternatives:

  • Tylenol
  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen
  • Aleve
  • Robaxin
  • Skelaxin

Which Drug Will Be The Best Choice?

Gablofen vs. Flexeril comparison reveals in detail the similarities and differences between the two popularly prescribed muscle relaxants. While Gablofen and Flexeril are muscle relaxants, the former is the best choice for long-term use, while Flexeril is better for short-term use. Lioresal also will be the better option for the cases of multiple sclerosis, treating alcoholism and spinal cord issues. It is essential that before the patient takes the drug, they weigh out the pros and cons, take a look at the side effects and the potential interactions to make sure they don’t experience any significant adverse effects of using either drug. Then, go through the comparison between Baclofen vs. Flexeril. Lastly, they should also remember to stick to the prescription and if they notice any chance of an addiction, report it to their physician or medical health professional immediately.

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Page Sources

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Published on: March 4th, 2019

Updated on: May 28th, 2021

About Author

Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

After successful graduation from Boston University, MA, Sharon gained a Master’s degree in Public Health. Since then, Sharon devoted herself entirely to the medical niche. Sharon Levy is also a certified addiction recovery coach.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.