Over-the-counter muscle relaxers and prescription options

Over-the-counter muscle relaxers and prescription options
Medically reviewed by Dr. Asim Cheema

Key takeaways

  1. Muscle relaxants are medications that help relieve muscle spasms, pain, and contractions due to underlying conditions, e.g, multiple sclerosis or spinal or musculoskeletal problems.  
  2. Two types of medications, antispasmodics and antispastic, are the prescription medications prescribed by healthcare providers for muscle pain and spasms. eg, Methocarbamol, cyclobenzaprine, baclofen, and tizanidine are mostly prescribed. 
  3. Over-the-counter medications, including tylenol (acetaminophen), advil (Ibuprofen), aspirin, and naproxen, are also taken for short-term pain relief, but healthcare provider prescriptions and medication are required for proper pain treatment or relief. 

Overview

Muscle relaxers are medications that help relax the muscles, pain or spasms. Muscle spasms, pain, and discomfort in the muscles can arise from different conditions like arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord problems. The best over-the-counter medications are tylenol, advil, naproxen, and topical gels are used for temporary short-term pain relief, while prescription medications specifically for muscle spasms are available after the consultation with a healthcare provider. Prescription medications like methocarbamol, cyclobenzaprine, baclofen, tizanidine, and metaxalone are the best medication options prescribed and recommended by healthcare providers for muscle pain.  The blog emphasizes over-the-counter and prescription medications and their mode of action in the body to treat muscle contractions, spasms, and medication.

What are muscle relaxers?

Muscle relaxers are medications that help relax the stretched or spasmed muscle and improve its function to its maximum. Muscle relaxers are prescribed globally by healthcare providers and available over the counter for several medical conditions like muscle spasms, muscle pain, and spasticity (stiffness of muscle). They are prescription medications only in the United States and are only available on prescription but are available in Canada or around the globe. Two types of muscle relaxers work in two different ways. Medical consultation will help you get the correct diagnosis for your pain along with the well-suited medication for that specific pain.

What do muscle relaxers do?

Muscle relaxers, also called muscle relaxants, help relieve pain and ease the tightened or stretched muscles. They are broadly classified into two different types: 

  1. Antispasmodics 
  2. Antispastics

They are classified according to the area they work on in the body. 

Antispasmodics relieve the pain in the smooth muscle and smooth muscle cavities, e.g., the Urinary tract spasms and stomach cramps. Conditions like pain due to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are treated with antispasmodics. Mechanisms of action of antispasmodics include reducing the excessive contractions of the smooth muscles.   

Antispastics are medications that help relieve the pain in the skeletal muscles (muscles that help in movement). These medications address and ease the pain in the skeletal muscles, leading to continuous movement and stiffness.

What are good over-the-counter muscle relaxers?

Over-the-counter muscle relaxer medications are milder and less effective than prescription medications, giving instant yet temporary relief from muscle spasms and pain. 

Some of the good over-the-counter muscle relaxers are as follows : 

 Ibuprofen (Advil) 

It is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication for fever and the body’s pain. It gives instant relief and is the best over-the-counter option. It’s readily available over the counter and can be prescribed to you without getting a consultation. It provides quick relief for aches and pains, e.g., headaches, body pains, back aches, menstrual pains, and sometimes minor arthritis. 

The dose for adults is 400 milligrams (mg) every four to six hours and should only be taken until it’s prescribed. Some common side effects of ibuprofen are dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue, and restless sleep.

Naproxen 

 It is also an NSAID and is a good option for muscle pain and inflammation in the localized area of anyone in the body. It’s readily available over the counter and can work effectively for joint pain, muscle aches, stiffness, and arthritis pain. 

Naproxen is usually considered the safe option for gout attacks as well. The adult’s initial naproxen dose is 275 or 550 milligrams (mg) 2 times a day. Some common side effects of naproxen are confusion, ringing in the ears, and dizziness.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) 

 It is an NSAID over-the-counter analgesic medication that can significantly help with muscle discomfort. It treats muscle spasms, joint pain, headaches, and other pains in the body. 

The adult effective dose for acetaminophen is 500mg (can be two tablets) initially and another dose after 3-4 hours. It’s essential not to take more than six tablets daily to avoid unwanted side effects.

Guaifenesin (Mucinex

 Mucinex is an expectorant taken over the counter for short-term back pain or muscle spasms. 

Aspirin

is an analgesic and anti-inflammatory medication used over the counter to relieve mild to moderate pain in the body. 

Acetaminophen (Tylenol

 It is an NSAID over-the-counter analgesic medication that can greatly help with muscle discomfort. 

Menthol and Capsaicin

Menthol and capsaicin are both ingredients available in topical gels and creams that help numb the area it is applied. It can help get instant relief by providing heat and numbing the stretched area. 

Other oral OTC options 

Magnesium, valerian root, or passion flower are natural ingredients with muscle-relief properties and are available as supplemental oral tablets to help relieve muscle pain. 

Mostly, all over-the-counter options do not help with the underlying correct diagnosis or the correct treatment. It will only give instant and temporary relief for your muscle problem. Specifically, over-the-counter medications for muscle problems are not available worldwide, specifically in the United States, and you will need to consult an online doctor for an accurate diagnosis and prescription.

Professional guidance is necessary for permanent muscle pain relief. Get the prescription and consultation now!

What are the most commonly prescribed muscle relaxers?

Muscle relaxers medications are prescribed after the correct diagnosis of an underlying condition. For muscle spasms and pain, different medications from the drug classes are prescribed, including : 

Methocarbamol (Robaxin) 

Methocarbamol, commonly sold under the brand name Robaxin, is a class of medications called “Musculoskeletal pain relief.” These medications work by stimulating the central nervous system, affecting the pain receptors in the muscles. 

Methocarbamol got FDA approval in 1957 to be prescribed for musculoskeletal pain. One of the most common side effects of methocarbamol is sleepiness and dizziness throughout the day, because of which it is also recommended to use for the short term by healthcare providers.

The recommended dose is 500 to 750 mg four times daily (Adult dose) and can be changed or increased per the severity of your medical condition. 

It’s beneficial to get the consultation and prescription from the healthcare provider to get the well-suited dose as per your age for the muscle pain or spasms, says Dr. Richard Honaker, M.D

Cyclobenzaprine

Cyclobenzaprine belongs to the drug class of cyclical antidepressants but is widely prescribed as a muscle relaxant. It usually comes in 2 different brand names: Flexeril or Amrix; it is also an FDA-approved drug for muscle spasms and pain due to acute muscle conditions in the body. 

Cyclobenzaprine works on the central nervous system to help relieve the stretched muscles that cause pain. Usually, the recommended dose for adults is 5 to 10 mg, which should only be taken three times a day.

Baclofen 

Baclofen is also one of the most prescribed and recommended medications for adult muscle pain, spasms, and contractions. It’s a prescription medication recommended for pain due to conditions like multiple sclerosis or spinal cord problems. Baclofen comes in brands like Lioresal, Beklo, Baclodol, Flexibac and Gablofen. 

The usual recommended dose for baclofen in adults is 5 mg three times a day, taking the dose adjustment into account as all the muscle relaxant medications that stimulate the brain should be adjusted accordingly to the underlying condition, weight, and age of the patient.

Get personalized baclofen, methocarbamol, or any prescription for your muscle pain with our doctors online now (available 24/7).

Tizanidine (Zanaflex) 

Tizanidine is an FDA-approved drug for managing the spasticity of the muscles. It is a centrally acting alpha-2 agonist drug (works by blocking the nerve impulses). Tizanidine comes in the brand Zanaflex, which works by blocking the pain nerve impulses, causing relief in the muscle pain due to medical conditions like multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury. 

Healthcare providers recommend taking the initial dose of tizanidine as 2 mg every 6-8 hours, which gradually increases according to the patient’s condition and compliance.  The maximum dose of tizanidine that an adult can take is 36 mg in a day, which should not be increased by any means.

Metaxalone (Skelaxin) 

Metaxalone is also a prescription medication recommended by healthcare providers for musculoskeletal pain. The usual recommended dose for metaxalone is 800 mg ( taken three to four times a day). But it’s not usually recommended in terms of economic unfriendliness, and other prescription options are considered budget-friendly. 

You can get the metaxalone alternative prescription with our available doctors online. Get connected now.

What are the side effects of muscle relaxers?

Some of the common side effects observed by patients on muscle relaxants are : 

  • Drowsiness
  • Sleep 
  • Staying drowsy 
  • Dry Mouth
  • Upset Stomach
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred Vision
  • Urinary Retention
  • Allergic Reactions

Due to the above-mentioned side effects, healthcare providers usually recommend short-term usage of these medications. Getting a consultation for an accurate diagnosis and prescription for muscle spasms and contractions is beneficial.

What drugs interact with muscle relaxers?

Some medications interact with muscle relaxants and can cause problematic effects. 

  • Sedatives and Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants: Combining these with muscle relaxants will increase the drowsiness effects.e.g., diazepam,  hydrocodone 
  • Antihistamine: Combining antihistamine (anti-allergy) medications with muscle relaxants will also enhance drowsiness.eg diphenhydramine or cetirizine 
  • Antidepressants: Combining these two might cause serotonin syndrome. 
  • Anticonvulsants: Anticonvulsants like gabapentin will interact with muscle relaxants, increasing drowsiness. 
  • Alcohol: It is beneficial to avoid alcohol consumption with muscle relaxants to avoid any CNS adverse effects in the body. 

How do I get a prescription for muscle relaxers?

You can get prescription medication for muscle relaxation and pain relief by connecting to the virtual healthcare provider and getting a consultation and a prescription for your medical consultation. 

It’s a crucial part of the treatment as the healthcare provider will prescribe you medication per your condition, and the dose will be adjusted accordingly for optimum results.

Get connected now with our virtual healthcare providers for a personalized prescription of your own.

FAQs about over-the-counter muscle relaxers

Who should not take muscle relaxers?

A person already on medications like antidepressants, anti-allergy, sedatives, or alcohol addicts should consult a healthcare provider and pharmacist before taking muscle relaxants to avoid any severe side effects of CNS.  

What’s better, a muscle relaxer or a painkiller?

Painkillers like NSAIDs are only better for temporary localized relief regardless of the underlying condition. At the same time, muscle relaxants will help you get the correct diagnosis of the underlying condition and treat it accordingly. If you are looking for instant pain relief, OTCs are better, and muscle relaxants are better if you are looking for the proper treatment of muscle pain.

What is the safest muscle relaxer for the elderly?

Diazepam and tizanidine are considered the safest muscle relaxers for elderly people, especially from the age group above 65 years.

What is the best painkiller for chronic back pain?

NSAIDs like acetaminophen (Tylenol ) and Ibuprofen (Advil) are the best over-the-counter options for back pain. At the same time, opioids like oxycodone are the best prescription medication options for back pain relief.

Which muscle relaxer works directly on the muscle?

Baclofen,  tizanidine, methocarbamol, cyclobenzaprine, and carisoprodol directly on the muscles and are termed “centrally acting muscle relaxants.  

What is the strongest natural muscle relaxer? 

Some of the strongest natural muscle relaxers are cherries and tart cherry juice, blueberries, protein and magnesium supplements, curcumin, pomegranate juice, and Arnica. Many other options must be considered for muscle-relaxing purposes and work effectively. 

What is the fastest working muscle relaxer?

Among all the other muscle relaxers, Succinylcholine is considered the fastest and works effectively to treat muscle pain and spasms. It starts working within one minute and shows its rapid effects on muscles with fast recovery. It is widely considered the most effective and fastest muscle relaxer till now.  

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

  • Li, Yan, et al. “Utilization patterns of skeletal muscle relaxants among commercially insured adults in the United States from 2006 to 2018.” Pain Medicine 22.10 (2021): 2153-2161.
  • Alvarez, Carlos A., et al. “Association of skeletal muscle relaxers and antihistamines on mortality, hospitalizations, and emergency department visits in elderly patients: a nationwide retrospective cohort study.” BMC geriatrics 15 (2015): 1-8.
  • Trueman, Caressa, et al. “Inappropriate use of skeletal muscle relaxants in geriatric patients.” US Pharm 45.1 (2020): 25-29.
  • Meleger, Alec L. “Muscle relaxants and antispasticity agents.” Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics 17.2 (2006): 401-413.
  • Pescatore, Richard M. “InFocus: Beyond Opioids and Muscle Relaxers: Analgesia for Low Back Pain in the ED.” Emergency Medicine News 45.3 (2023): 10-11.
  • Mark Studin, D. C. “Research Review shows Chiropractic treatment 24% more effective at relieving Low Back Pain than prescription muscle relaxants.”

 

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