What Do Muscle Relaxers Do? When To Use Muscle Relaxers For Neck Pain?

Last Updated: June 4, 2020

Authored by Olivier George, Ph.D.

Muscle relaxers are medications that are known to be effective for neck pain and back pain. But they are also effective for anxiety, skeep, sciatica, menstrual cramps, headaches, and fibromyalgia. In this article, learn more on what muscle relaxers do, how to use muscle relaxant medication for various health issues, and adverse reactions associated with them.

Muscle Relaxants Uses

Muscle relaxants are usually prescribed to treat acute muscle pains. They are often prescribed for neck pain, back pain, tension headaches, fibromyalgia, and myofascial pain syndrome.
Some of them come with a sedative effect and work by acting directly on muscle fibers and suppressing the Central Nervous System of an individual. However, some of the RX muscle relaxers such as Baclofen, Tizanidine, and Methocarbamol work on the brain or spinal cord to damp down the stimulated pathways.
The medical professionals prescribe the muscle relaxant medicines if anti-inflammatory medicines or over-the-counter pain relievers do not help in getting relief from musculoskeletal pain. Here is how muscle relaxers help with various pains and similar conditions:

Muscle Relaxers For Neck Pain

Muscle relaxants work for spasms in the neck, but they are recommended for initial and short-term treatment of pain. Some of the neck muscle relaxers include:

  • carisoprodol (Soma),
  • cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril),
  • metaxalone (Skelaxin),
  • orphenadrine (Norgesic).

These drugs cannot be considered as best because they are only going to work for a short term basis, up to 2 or 3 weeks. If one is looking for quick relief from pain, an individual can opt home muscle relaxers such as chamomile or other herbs, or consider getting physical therapy.

Muscle Relaxers For Back Pain

Baclofen, Tizanidine, Soma, Norflex, Flexeril are the muscle relaxers for back pain that works on the spinal cord and treats spasticity caused cerebral palsy and spinal cord injury.
They lead to complete recovery by blocking the feeling of pain so that they can get the rest they require to heal. But they should not be the first preference of an individual as they are sedating and can make a person have its habit.

 Senior man with back pain

Muscle Relaxers For Anxiety

Muscle relaxants medicines such as Flexeril, and Robaxin act as a calming agent to the central nervous system that helps with anxiety. But they only provide short-term relief from anxiety and depending on how long muscle relaxers stay in your system, adverse effects such as drowsiness, tiredness, or nausea may be experienced.

Muscle Relaxers For Sciatica

Muscle relaxants such as Flexeril are prescribed to get relief from the pain and discomfort that is associated with sciatica. But the sciatica muscle relaxers are not the best option for pain as it confuses older people.
Depending on the pain, these medicines should only be used in the initial stages. At times, some individuals consider the usage of opioid medication such as Tramadol to treat severe pain but make sure that the combination of Tramadol and muscle relaxers is not consumed as they interact with each other.

Muscle Relaxers For Menstrual Cramps

The contraction of smooth muscles causes menstrual cramps; so, a subset of muscle relaxants such as smooth muscle spasmolytics can only help. Muscle relaxants only work best for skeletal muscles and are not considered helpful for cramps. Therefore, one should always go for regular painkillers for cramps, as advised by a doctor.

Muscle Relaxers For Sleep

Muscle relaxers are ideally prescribed for acute pain. But they also serve as an effective medication if the pain causes troubles with sleeping. Relaxants such as Soma and Flexeril cause drowsiness and help get sleep if taken at night.

Muscle Relaxers For TMJ

Man suffering from facial pain

Muscle relaxants such as Metaxalone, Alprazolam, and Carisoprodol can be used to get relief from pain and discomfort due to TMJ. TMJ muscle relaxers work on the face and jaw muscles and decrease muscle spasms. As these medicines are strong, one should only use them for the duration, as prescribed by the doctor.

Muscle Relaxers For Fibromyalgia

A low dose of muscle relaxants such as Flexeril and Zanaflex help people with fibromyalgia feel less pain and sleep better. These muscle relaxant side effects may include: chest pain, nausea, or fever. One can also not use this medicine in the day time due to its sedation effect, with the exception being, Skelaxin as it does not affect the Central Nervous System.

Muscle Relaxers For Tension Headaches

Tizanidine (Zanaflex) is a muscle relaxer that can be used to treat tension headaches. According to a 2009 study published in the US National Library of Medicine, muscle relaxants are not found to be effective for tension headaches. They also do not play a significant role in the treatment of TTH.
One can turn to simple analgesics or acetaminophen for the treatment of tension headaches, but only with the doctor’s recommendation.

Muscle Relaxers For Shoulder Pain

The common muscle relaxers like tizanidine, baclofen, and cyclobenzaprine help treat pain if one has muscle tension or spasm around the shoulder joint. Remember that they might make the user feel drowsy and shouldn’t be consumed if someone is about to drive or head out.

Muscle Relaxers For Migraines

According to a study published on NCBI, Baclofen is found to be 86.2% effective in headache reduction from baseline. It is also known to be effective for the preventative treatment of migraines.

Woman experiencing Migraine

One should also not combine alcohol and muscle relaxants as the combination makes it hard to think, does not allow a person to function normally, and increases the risk of accidents as well. If an individual does, immediate detox should be considered.

Take Muscle Relaxers With Caution

Muscle relaxers are generally prescribed for a short time, as it can be addictive for some people.
Another reason why they are not a good option is because they are sedative and make one feel tired. But how long does it take for muscle relaxers to kick in? Some muscle relaxers start working within 30 minutes of taking them, and their effects can last anywhere from 4 to 6 hours.
However, to manage the risks associated with muscle relaxants, consider professional medical treatment for effective results. It is recommended to take them before one sleeps, especially if an individual has never used them before.

Page Sources

  1. Hering-Hanit R., Baclofen for prevention of migraine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10448546
  2. Lars Bendtsen, Drug and Nondrug Treatment in Tension-type Headache, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3002628/

Published on: August 14th, 2019

Updated on: June 4th, 2020

About Author

Olivier George, Ph.D.

Olivier George is a medical writer and head manager of the rehab center in California. He spends a lot of time in collecting and analyzing the traditional approaches for substance abuse treatment and assessing their efficiency.


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