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Can Muscle Relaxers Help Decrease Arthritis Pain?

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 11/18/2010

Can muscle relaxers for arthritis work? To answer this question and learn more about this topic, read on.

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    Muscle relaxers for arthritis are sometimes prescribed to help alleviate pain. Patients experiencing muscle pain may benefit from muscle relaxers. The muscle pain related to arthritis is generally affected by the spine. Muscle relaxers are typically prescribed short-term for arthritis-related muscle pain. Muscle relaxers may help to alleviate pain through reducing muscle spasms. Muscle spasms are known for initiating pain signals, so reducing muscle spasms may in turn help to reduce the patient's pain.

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    Robaxin

    Also known as methocarbamol, Robaxin is a muscle relaxing medication that may be prescribed to help alleviate the discomfort and pain that may come with acute, painful musculoskeletal conditions. It's mode of action is not clearly known, but it is thought that its sedative properties may play a role. This medication may cause a variety of different side effects, such as:

    • Bradycardia
    • Low blood pressure
    • Flushing
    • Syncope
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Dizziness
    • Drowsiness
    • Blurry vision
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    Soma

    Also known as carisoprodol, Soma is a muscle relaxing medication. This medication is prescribed to treat muscle stiffness and pain associated with injuries, such as sprains or strains. Side effects are possible and may include:

    • Headache
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Drowsiness
    • Confusion
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    Flexeril

    Also known as cyclobenzaprine, Flexeril is a muscle relaxing medication. This medication is prescribed to treat muscle spasms, stiffness, and pain. Side effects are possible and may include:

    • Chest pain
    • Hallucinations
    • Vomiting
    • Headache
    • Dry mouth
    • Fast heartbeat
    • Drowsiness
    • Seizures
    • Dizziness
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    Skelaxin

    Also known as metaxalone, Skelaxin is a muscle relaxing medication. It's mode of action is not clearly known, but it is thought that its sedative properties may play a role. Possible side effects include:

    • Drowsiness
    • Gastrointestinal upset
    • Rash
    • Hemolytic anemia
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea
    • Jaundice
    • Headache
    • Vomiting
    • Nervousness
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    Purpose of Use

    Muscle relaxers that are considered antispasmodic may help some arthritis patients. However, the patient will not be given these medications as a first line of treatment. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and acetaminophen are always prescribed first. If patients are experiencing muscle pain even with NSAID or acetaminophen therapy, their doctor may choose to prescribe a muscle relaxing medication. When the patient's lower back pain is acute, they will typically be prescribed muscle relaxers for no more than two weeks. If the patient's pain is chronic, they may be prescribed a longer course of this medication.

    Clinical trials show that muscle relaxers are not as effective for treating arthritis symptoms as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory are. However, these studies do show that a muscle relaxer is more effective than a placebo.

    The elderly and those that are frail should avoid muscle relaxing medications because these medications may cause sedation. This sedation may lead to falling, which could result in serious injury.

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    Resources

    Spine Health. (2010). Pain Medication Health Center. Retrieved on November 15, 2010 from Spine Health: http://www.spine-health.com/treatment/pain-medication

    Arthritis Foundation. (2010). Take Medicines Wisely. Retrieved on November 15, 2010 from the Arthritis Foundation: http://www.arthritis.org/taking-meds.php