Over-The-Counter Muscle Relaxers Over-The-Counter Muscle Relaxers

Over-The-Counter Muscle Relaxers: What You Need To Know


You may find concentrating difficult when your back spasms or neck muscles won't relax. The effectiveness of muscle relaxants varies between over-the-counter and prescription medications. This article aims to explore the differences between over-the-counter and prescription muscle relaxers.

This discussion will also discuss what muscle relaxers are, their effects and precautions, and how these drugs work. As a final point, we can discuss when it's appropriate to see a medical professional get treatment.


Over-the-Counter Muscle Relaxers

The over-the-counter muscle relaxers aren't available over the counter. Still, some over-the-counter medicines can help treat back pain, spasms, and other conditions that muscle relaxers can treat.


  • Guaifenesin: Helps relieve backaches and spasms in the upper back. You should consult your healthcare provider if you take guaifenesin (Mucinex) for muscle relaxation.
  • NSAIDs: Naproxen and ibuprofen (Advil) are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that reduce pain and inflammation, making them effective for short-term back pain and muscle spasms. NSAIDs are also available at higher dosages by prescription.
  • Acetaminophen: Tylenol (acetaminophen) blocks the production of substances responsible for pain. Because acetaminophen and NSAIDs are different drugs, medical providers may recommend alternating between them.

Prescription Muscle Relaxers

The side effects of prescription muscle relaxers may be more pronounced than those of OTC muscle relaxers.


  • Methocarbamol: Methocarbamol (Robaxin) is an OTC muscle relaxant sold outside the United States that treats back muscle pain. It has fewer sedative effects than other types of muscle relaxants. Compared with people who did not take methocarbamol for up to eight days, 44% of those who took it experienced muscle pain relief.

  • Metaxalone: There are fewer side effects associated with Metaxalone (Skelaxin) than other muscle relaxants. Some insurance plans do not cover it because it is more expensive than other options.

  • Carisoprodol: Nonbenzodiazepine drugs such as carisoprodol (Soma) are not benzodiazepines. It belongs to the same Schedule IV drug class as Xanax, Ativan, and Valium, which makes it a less commonly used muscle relaxer. As it can be habit-forming and is not effective for prolonged use, it should only be used for a maximum of 2-3 weeks. Drowsiness and dizziness can occur; older adults over 65 should not take it.

  • Tizanidine: Patients with multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy may benefit from tizanidine (Zanaflex), an antispasmodic drug. The side effects of tizanidine are usually less severe than those associated with other similar drugs. Despite its effectiveness for chronic muscle spasms, this medication is not recommended for acute muscular problems or back pain.

  • Baclofen: Muscle relaxants such as this medication are approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat conditions such as multiple sclerosis, spinal cord lesions, clonus, and spasms of the flexor muscles. A patient with back pain from spinal cord injury is more likely to have it prescribed if they have back pain associated with the injury rather than acute back pain. Drowsiness is one of the side effects caused by Baclofen (Lioresal).

  • Cyclobenzaprine: Flexeril (cyclobenzaprine) is an effective muscle relaxer associated with drowsiness. Older adults may also experience dry mouth as a result of it. Due to its widespread availability and insurance coverage, this is a popular first prescription.


What Are Muscle Relaxers?

Medication that reduces muscle spasms and pain is known as a muscle relaxer.


How Do They Work?

Generally, muscle relaxers fall into two categories:


  • Some neurons in the brain are prevented from transmitting information by antispasmodics. Their direct effect on the central nervous system reduces spasms and spasticity. Most commonly prescribed for acute back pain caused by muscle injuries or throwing out your back.

  • Antispastics primarily target the spine or skeletal muscles. In addition to relaxing tight muscles, they also calm spasms. It is not common to use these medications to treat acute back pain, but they are used to treat chronic conditions involving nerve or spinal cord dysfunction. Multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and spinal cord injuries are common conditions treated with antispastic drugs.


Undoubtedly, both types of drugs can relax muscles and ease the pain caused by stiff or spasming muscles. However, their everyday use and side effects are different.


Side Effects

Antispasmodic drugs can cause the following side effects:


  • Constipation

  • Dry eyes

  • Bloating

  • Nausea

  • Weakness

  • Dry mouth

  • Drowsiness

  • Dizziness

  • Blurred vision


Antispastic drugs typically cause the following side effects:


  • Weakness

  • Nausea

  • Tiredness

  • Confusion

  • Headache

  • Problems falling asleep or staying asleep

  • Constipation

  • Dizziness


Risks and Precautions

Take these medications cautiously if you suffer from back pain or muscle spasms. Many drugs can cause drowsiness or dizziness, increasing the risk of falling or other injuries. Alcohol and antihistamines or sedatives that can cause drowsiness should not be taken with muscle relaxers.

Muscle relaxers should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Consult your healthcare provider and pharmacist if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Muscle relaxers may have more side effects for older adults or those with kidney or liver problems.

If you are taking any other medications, OTC drugs, dietary supplements, or herbs, tell your medical provider so that interactions and side effects can be avoided.


When to See a Medical Provider

Consult a medical professional if you suspect a chronic problem with muscle spasms or a sudden onset of muscle spasms.

You should also seek medical attention if you experience back pain or other muscle spasms that do not resolve.


Frequently Asked Questions


Can I Get A Muscle Relaxer Over The Counter?

There are no over-the-counter muscle relaxers in the United States, but some OTC medications may have muscle-relaxing effects. A few of these include guaifenesin and NSAIDs like naproxen and ibuprofen.


What Are The Top 5 Muscle Relaxers?

Muscle relaxers can alleviate pain and muscle spasms. In addition to carisoprodol, cyclobenzaprine, diazepam, metaxalone, and methocarbamol, five other muscle relaxers are prescribed frequently.


What Can Be Used In Place Of A Muscle Relaxer?

In case of tight or cramping muscles, consider OTC or home remedies instead of a muscle relaxer. Several NSAIDs, including ibuprofen and naproxen, can alleviate acute back and muscle pain. Back spasms may be helped by guaifenesin. Heat can relieve cramping caused by menstruation, while ice packs may relieve pain caused by acute injuries.


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