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Skeletal muscle relaxants

Medically reviewed by C. Fookes, BPharm. Last updated on March 20, 2018.

What are Skeletal muscle relaxants?

Skeletal muscle relaxants are drugs that are used to relax and reduce tension in muscles. They are more simply referred to as muscle relaxants.

Some work in the brain or spinal cord to block or dampen down excessively stimulated nerve pathways. These are called centrally acting muscle relaxants and examples include baclofen, methocarbamol, and tizanidine.

Others act directly on muscle fibers and are classified as peripherally acting muscle relaxants. Examples include dantrolene and the different types of botulinum toxin. Although dantrolene acts directly on the muscle itself, it also appears to indirectly act on the central nervous system and can cause drowsiness.

Cannabis extract also has muscle relaxing properties and is thought to act both centrally and peripherally.

What are skeletal muscle relaxants used for?

Skeletal muscle relaxants are mainly used to treat:

What are the differences between skeletal muscle relaxants?

Skeletal muscle relaxants differ in the way they work (centrally or peripherally as discussed above), their side effects, and their effectiveness for certain conditions.

Note that several other medicines, notably diazepam, may also be used as a muscle relaxant and are not listed below.

Are skeletal muscle relaxants safe?

Evidence supporting the effectiveness of skeletal muscle relaxants for muscle spasm is sparse; most trials are old and not of good quality. Skeletal muscle relaxants consist of a varied range of medicines and some may not be suitable for people with certain medical conditions such as an enlarged prostate, epilepsy, glaucoma, intestinal problems, liver or kidney disease, or myasthenia gravis. Many also interact with other medications.

Some, like dantrolene, can adversely affect the liver and blood samples should be taken before treatment to check for any pre-existing liver disease or to establish how well the liver is functioning before treatment, and what effect the drug subsequently has.

Muscle relaxants can affect overall muscle tone and may be dangerous if muscle tone is needed for safe balance or movement. Alcohol can enhance these effects. Many muscle relaxants need to be tapered off slowly, rather than abruptly stopped.

What are the side effects of skeletal muscle relaxants?

Drowsiness is common, particularly with centrally acting muscle relaxants; however, drowsiness can occur with some peripherally acting muscle relaxants, such as dantrolene, as well. This may impair the ability of a person to drive or operate machinery or perform hazardous tasks.

Some may also cause side effects such as a dry mouth, fast heartbeat, gastrointestinal upset (such as nausea, vomiting, constipation), headache, insomnia, light headedness, problems with urination, and other unwanted effects.

Products containing botulinum toxin may cause generalized muscle weakness, vision changes, breathing difficulties and other serious side effects if the toxin spreads from the area of injection.

List of Skeletal muscle relaxants:

View by  Brand | Generic
Drug Name Reviews Avg. Ratings
Antiflex
Generic name: orphenadrine
1 review
10
Vanadom
Generic name: carisoprodol
1 review
9.0
Soma (Pro)
Generic name: carisoprodol
186 reviews
8.9
Zanaflex (Pro)
Generic name: tizanidine
105 reviews
7.7
Amrix (Pro)
Generic name: cyclobenzaprine
48 reviews
7.3
Myobloc (Pro)
Generic name: rimabotulinumtoxinB
3 reviews
7.2
Skelaxin (Pro)
Generic name: metaxalone
86 reviews
7.2
Lioresal (Pro)
Generic name: baclofen
22 reviews
7.0
Norflex (Pro)
Generic name: orphenadrine
25 reviews
6.7
Flexeril (Pro)
Generic name: cyclobenzaprine
210 reviews
6.3
Lorzone (Pro)
Generic name: chlorzoxazone
21 reviews
6.2
Robaxin (Pro)
Generic name: methocarbamol
69 reviews
6.2
Dysport (Pro)
Generic name: abobotulinumtoxinA
7 reviews
6.1
Parafon Forte DSC (Pro)
Generic name: chlorzoxazone
3 reviews
5.9
Botox (Pro)
Generic name: onabotulinumtoxinA
384 reviews
5.8
Fexmid (Pro)
Generic name: cyclobenzaprine
4 reviews
5.8
Xeomin (Pro)
Generic name: incobotulinumtoxinA
3 reviews
5.7
Robaxin-750
Generic name: methocarbamol
40 reviews
5.6
Dantrium (Pro)
Generic name: dantrolene
3 reviews
5.5
Lioresal Intrathecal
Generic name: baclofen
3 reviews
5.2
Gablofen (Pro)
Generic name: baclofen
4 reviews
5.0
Botox Cosmetic (Pro)
Generic name: onabotulinumtoxinA
11 reviews
4.9
Comfort Pac with Cyclobenzaprine
Generic name: cyclobenzaprine
2 reviews
4.5
Orfro
Generic name: orphenadrine
0 reviews
3.0
Kemstro
Generic name: baclofen
0 reviews
2.0
Dantrium Intravenous (Pro)
Generic name: dantrolene
0 reviewsAdd rating
Jeuveau (Pro)
Generic name: prabotulinumtoxinA
0 reviewsAdd rating
Mio-Rel
Generic name: orphenadrine
0 reviewsAdd rating
Orphenate
Generic name: orphenadrine
0 reviewsAdd rating
Ozobax (Pro)
Generic name: baclofen
0 reviewsAdd rating
Paraflex
Generic name: chlorzoxazone
0 reviewsAdd rating
Remular-S
Generic name: chlorzoxazone
0 reviewsAdd rating
Revonto (Pro)
Generic name: dantrolene
0 reviewsAdd rating
Ryanodex (Pro)
Generic name: dantrolene
0 reviewsAdd rating
For ratings, users were asked how effective they found the medicine while considering positive/adverse effects and ease of use (1 = not effective, 10 = most effective).

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.