Muscle relaxants for neck pain

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
carisoprodol Soma
cyclobenzaprine hydrochloride Flexeril
diazepam Valium
metaxalone Skelaxin
methocarbamol Robaxin

How It Works

Muscle relaxant medications affect the communication between the brain and the spinal cord (central nervous system). They act as sedatives, which most likely causes their muscle-relaxing effects.

Why It Is Used

Muscle relaxants may be helpful when severe muscle spasms follow the beginning of neck pain.

How Well It Works

Muscle relaxants are commonly used to treat muscle spasms in neck pain. But there is little research on their use for neck pain. Muscle relaxants do work for some people with neck pain. Studies of people with back and neck pain found that cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril) was better for pain than diazepam (Valium) or nothing.1

Side Effects

Side effects include:

  • Possible addiction or dependence.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Urinary retention.

These medicines are best taken at bedtime. If you use one during waking hours, strictly avoid driving, operating machinery, or doing similar activities that could be dangerous to you or others if you become drowsy.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Muscle relaxants are recommended only for initial, short-term treatment of neck pain.

Valium and Soma are not recommended for use by:

  • Pregnant women.
  • Older adults.
  • People who have depression or a history of drug or alcohol addiction.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. Binder A (2006). Neck pain, search date May 2006. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence. Also available online: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.

Last Updated: August 21, 2008

Author: Shannon Erstad, MBA, MPH

Medical Review: William M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine & Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics

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