We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.
Healthline only shows you brands and products that we stand behind.Our team thoroughly researches and evaluates the recommendations we make on our site. To establish that the product manufacturers addressed safety and efficacy standards, we:
- Evaluate ingredients and composition: Do they have the potential to cause harm?
- Fact-check all health claims: Do they align with the current body of scientific evidence?
- Assess the brand: Does it operate with integrity and adhere to industry best practices?
There are many prescription and over-the-counter medications available that can provide relief for muscle spasms and muscle spasticity.
Muscle relaxers, or muscle relaxants, are medications used to treat muscle spasms or muscle spasticity.
Muscle spasms or cramps are sudden, involuntary contractions of a muscle or group of muscles. They can be caused by too much muscle strain and lead to pain. They’re
Muscle spasticity is caused by injury to parts of the brain or spinal cord involved with movement. Conditions that
Prescription drugs can help relieve the pain and discomfort from muscle spasms or spasticity. In addition, certain over-the-counter medications may be used to treat aches and pains associated with muscle spasms.
Prescription medications are divided into two groups: antispasmodics and antispastics.
Antispasmodics are used to treat muscle spasms, and antispastics are used to treat muscle spasticity. Some antispasmodics, such as tizanidine, can be used to treat muscle spasticity. However, antispastics should not be used to treat muscle spasms.
Antispasmodics: Centrally acting skeletal muscle relaxants (SMRs)
Centrally acting SMRs are used in addition to rest and physical therapy to help relieve muscle spasms. They’re thought to work by causing a sedative effect or by preventing your nerves from sending pain signals to your brain.
You should only use these muscle relaxants for up to
While antispasmodics can be used to treat muscle spasms, they have not been shown to work better than nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen. In addition, they have more side effects than NSAIDs or acetaminophen.
The more common side effects of centrally acting SMRs include:
You should talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of these medications for the treatment of your muscle spasms.
List of centrally acting SMRs
|Generic name||Brand name||Form||Generic available|
|chlorzoxazone||Parafon Forte, Lorzone||tablet||yes|
|cyclobenzaprine||Fexmid, Flexeril, Amrix||tablet, extended-release capsule||tablet only|
On March 21, 2022, Sandoz
Antispastics are used to treat muscle spasticity. They should not be used to treat muscle spasms. These drugs include the following:
Baclofen (Lioresal) is a skeletal muscle relaxer used to relieve spasticity caused by MS. It’s not fully understood how it works, but it seems to block nerve signals from the spinal cord that cause muscles to spasm. Side effects can include drowsiness, dizziness, weakness, and fatigue.
Dantrolene (Dantrium) is a skeletal muscle relaxer used to treat muscle spasms caused by spinal cord injury, stroke, cerebral palsy, or MS. It works by acting directly on the skeletal muscle to relax the muscle spasm. Side effects can include drowsiness, dizziness, lightheadedness, and fatigue.
Diazepam (Valium) is a benzodiazepine used to relieve muscle spasms caused by inflammation, trauma, or muscle spasticity. It works by increasing the activity of a certain neurotransmitter to decrease the occurrence of muscle spasms. Diazepam is a sedative. Side effects can include drowsiness, fatigue, and muscle weakness.
List of antispastics
|Generic name||Brand name||Form||Generic available|
|baclofen||Lioresal, Gablofen, Lioresal||tablet, injection||yes|
|diazepam||Valium||oral suspension, tablet, injection||yes|
Muscle relaxants such as carisoprodol and diazepam can be habit-forming. Be sure to take your medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor.
Also, muscle relaxants depress your central nervous system (CNS), making it hard to pay attention or stay awake. While taking a muscle relaxant, avoid activities that require mental alertness or coordination, such as driving or using heavy machinery.
You should not take muscle relaxants with:
- CNS depressant drugs, such as opioids or psychotropics
- sleeping medications
- herbal supplements such as St. John’s wort
Talk to your doctor about how you can safely use muscle relaxants if you:
- are older than 65 years
- have a mental health problem or brain disorder
- have liver problems
Doctors can use certain medications to treat spasticity even when the drugs are not approved for that purpose by the U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA). This is called off-label drug use. The following drugs are not actually muscle relaxants, but they can still help relieve symptoms of spasticity.
Examples of benzodiazepines include:
Side effects of benzodiazepines can include drowsiness and problems with balance and memory. These drugs can also be habit-forming.
Gabapentin (Neurontin) is an anticonvulsant drug
OTC treatment is recommended as first-line therapy for muscle spasms caused by conditions such as acute lower back pain or tension headache. This means you should try OTC treatments before prescription medications.
OTC treatment options include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), acetaminophen, or a combination of both. Your doctor or pharmacist can help you choose an OTC treatment.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs come as oral tablets, capsules, or suspensions. They also come as chewable tablets for children. Side effects of these drugs can include upset stomach and dizziness.
Examples of NSAIDs include:
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is thought to work by
The more common side effects of acetaminophen can include nausea and upset stomach.
However, research on the medicinal properties of cannabis are limited, as its cultivation, supply, and possession is still prohibited in many areas.
Therefore, more research is needed to understand whether cannabis or the compounds it contains could help ease muscle spasms or muscle spasticity.
You can often manage your muscle spasm or spasticity symptoms on your own, but in some cases, you may need medical advice or care. Be sure to call your doctor if you:
- have spasticity for the first time and don’t know the cause
- notice the spasticity is getting more severe, happening more often, or making tasks difficult
- have severe and frequent muscle spasms
- notice deformity of the parts of your body affected by muscle spasms
- have side effects from your muscle relaxant
- have a “frozen joint” due to contracture that decreases your range of motion or causes pressure sores
- have increasing discomfort or pain
What are the top 5 muscle relaxers?
The options will depend on your needs and other factors, but five commonly prescribed drugs are:
- baclofen (Lioresal)
- dantrolene (Dantrium)
- carisoprodol (Soma)
- clorzoxazone (Lorzon)
- methocarbamol (Robaxin)
Are there over the counter muscle relaxers?
There are currently no over-the-counter muscle relaxers in the United States, but acetaminophen and NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, can help manage sore muscles.
Are muscle relaxants safe to take?
This will depend on your individual needs, as some types can form a dependence. Some may also interact with alcohol and other drugs. Always discuss the benefits and risks of a muscle relaxer with your prescribing doctor and be sure to follow any instructions with care.
It’s important to treat both spasticity and muscle spasms. Severe, long-term spasticity can lead to muscle contracture, which can decrease your range of motion or leave the affected joints permanently bent. And muscle spasms can not only be uncomfortable, they can also be a sign of an underlying medical problem.
Your muscle spasms or spasticity are likely treatable with rest, physical therapy, medications, or all of the above. Work with your doctor to put together a care plan that can ease your pain and get you moving comfortably again.