What Are Muscle Relaxants And When Are They Used To Treat Pain?

Dr. Christo answers the question: 'When Are Muscle Relaxants Used For Pain?'

ByABC News
November 11, 2008, 4:19 PM

— -- Question: What Are Muscle Relaxants And When Are They Used To Treat Pain?

Answer: Muscle relaxants are typically used to treat acute muscle problems, though they are sometimes incorporated into the treatment of chronic pain conditions that involve painful muscle spasms.

These medicines act at several sites in the body to reduce muscle tone and relax tight, tense muscles. Some of these medicines have direct effects on skeletal muscle fibers, while others influence both nerves and muscles. Baclofen is an antispasmodic medicine that works at the level of the spinal cord, and treats spasticity caused by spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, and cerebral palsy.

Benzodiazepines like Valium can relieve muscle spasms from its action at the spinal cord as well. Long-term use of Valium for chronic pain is controversial due to problems with sleep, dependence, and withdrawal.

Tizanidine or Zanaflex reduces spasticity at the level of the spinal cord and is indicated for the treatment of spasticity associated with spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis. It may have additional pain relieving properties that may be useful for treating chronic pain conditions as well.

Drugs like Soma, Flexeril, Robaxin, Skelaxin, and Norflex work at the spinal cord level and may add in relieving short-term muscle pain. Side effects of muscle relaxants typically include sedation, and, therefore, you may need to reserve the medication for nighttime use.

Next: Can Over-The-Counter Pain Relievers Be Harmful, Are They Safer Than Other Drugs?

Previous: Why Are Anti-Depressant Medications Used To Treat Pain?