Muscle relaxants are pain medications commonly used to relieve suffering caused by numerous illnesses, including fibromyalgia. Muscle relaxants help to ease tense muscles and reduce muscle spasms, thereby providing relief to many fibromyalgia patients. There are many types of muscle relaxants, so it is important to consult with your health care provider about medication information before using one.
How do Muscle Relaxants Work?
Muscle relaxants do not work by curing the source of the pain. Instead, muscle relaxants help to mask pain, enabling you to get on with your daily life. Like benzodiazepines, muscle relaxants also work on the brain. These medications work to reduce your brain’s ability to sense pain, allowing you to relax. They also block the pain sensations that your body’s nerves send to your brain.
Effectiveness in Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia muscle relaxants have proven to be very effective in treating muscle pain. In one study performed on cyclobenzaprine, fibromyalgia sufferers reported an increased ability to sleep and a decrease in their pain symptoms after using the drug for three months. Studies on orphenadrine citrate produced similar results. However, some muscle relaxants do not reduce the amount of muscle spasms that occur with fibromyalgia. Often, tinzanidine is prescribed to those who suffer from muscle spasms along with their pain.
Types of Muscle Relaxants
There are numerous types of muscle relaxants available in today’s market. The most common muscle relaxants for fibromyalgia include cyclobenzaprine, orphenadrine citrate, tizanidine, and carisoprodol.
Cyclobenzaprine, marketed under the name Flexeril, works by blocking nerve impulses that are sent from your muscles to your brain. This stops you from sensing any muscle pain or stiffness. Cyclobenzaprine has proved very effective in treating the pain symptoms of fibromyalgia. In a recent study of 120 fibromyalgia patients, cyclobenzaprine reduced pain and muscle tightness significantly. All participants also reported improved sleep patterns and a reduction in their total number of tender points.
Cyclobenzaprine, though effective, should only be taken for short periods of time. Because it can cause addiction and withdrawal symptoms, consult with your health care provider before taken cyclobenzaprine. Those who have suffered recent heart attacks or who have other heart conditions should not take cyclobenzaprine.
Marketed under the name Norflex, orphenadrine citrate also acts on the brain to block muscle pain. It is typically used in conjunction with rest and physical therapy for maximum effectiveness. A study involving 85 fibromyalgia patients found that, after one year of treatment, orphenadrine citrate reduced pain symptoms by up to 34%. It is generally thought to be more effective than cyclobenzaprine, because it can be taken for longer periods of time.
Orphenadrine citrate has been known to cause disturbing side effects, including confusion and tremors. Prolonged use may require monitoring by your health care provider.
Tizanidine also works by blocking nerve impulses that are sent from the nerve endings in your body to your brain. Marketed under the name Zanaflex, tizanidine is particularly helpful in reducing fibromyalgia muscle spasms. Few other muscle relaxants work well for this purpose. Tizanidine works to increase muscle tone, thereby reducing muscle weakness and spasm.
Tizanidine should not be taken if you have liver or kidney disease or are currently taking oral contraceptives.
Marketed under the name Soma, carisoprodol is a muscle relaxant designed to ease stiffness, pain, discomfort, and muscle injury. It is also excellent at reducing muscle spasms in fibromyalgia patients. Like other muscle relaxants, carisoprodol works by blocking the pain sensations in the brain. Few studies are available regarding the effectiveness of carisprodol, though it is generally thought to be as effective as cyclobenzaprine.
Side Effects of Muscle Relaxants
All muscle relaxants are associated with side effects, and you should be monitored carefully while taking any type of this medication. The most common side effects include dry mouth, drowsiness, and constipation. As with benzodiazepines, muscle relaxants can also be habit forming. Muscle relaxants should not be taken for extended periods of time unless under the direction of a health care professional.