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Drug treatment - muscle relaxants

Sometimes, your doctor will prescribe muscle relaxants in combination with an NSAID or other drug for pain and inflammation when you first have back pain. They work through the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) to tell your muscles to relax. They do not work directly at the muscles. They have been shown to be effective at relieving muscle spasm and pain in patients with acute back pain.

Examples of muscle relaxants include:

  • Carisoprodol (Soma)
  • Cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril)
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Methocarbamol (Robaxin)

Possible side effects

Side effects from muscle relaxants are common and include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Nausea or vomiting

These medicines also have the potential for abuse and addiction.

You should not drive or operate heavy machinery while taking muscle relaxants. You should also not drink alcohol while taking these medications.

People who should not use muscle relaxants

You should not take muscle relaxants if you have:

  • Hyperthyroidism (an over-active thyroid gland)
  • Heart failure
  • An abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia)

You should also not use this type of drug if you take a monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor (like isocarboxazid, phenelzine, and tranylcypromine), used for depression.

If you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant in the near future, or breastfeeding, do not use muscle relaxants.


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Review Date: 6/29/2011
Reviewed By: Andrew W. Piasecki, MD, Camden Bone and Joint, LLC, Orthopaedic Surgery/Sports Medicine, Camden, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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