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Muscle Relaxants for Spine Problems?

A muscle relaxant (or muscle relaxer) is a prescription medication sometimes used for individuals with spine problems. But why would muscle relaxants be used to help problems with the bones, discs, and nerves of the spine? Let’s take a closer look.

muscle relaxant for back pain

What is a Muscle Relaxant?

Muscle relaxants (also called muscle relaxers) are a group of prescription medications that are used to calm muscles causing pain or discomfort.

Many different types of drugs fall into the class of muscle relaxers. Within each type of drug, there also can be different brand name medications. You may have seen muscle relaxers under the common and brand names of: benzodiazepine, baclofen, carisoprodol (Soma), chlorzoxazone, Robaxin, Zanaflex, or more.

How Are Muscle Relaxers Used for Back and Neck Pain?

Your spine protects many sensitive nerves that connect your brain to muscles throughout the body. Inflammation, misalignment or other issues around the spine can put pressure on these nerves. The nerves can be irritated as a result of this pressure. This, in turn, can cause pain to shoot to your extremities or can send signals to muscles in your body. Sometimes these signals cause muscle spasms or twitching. Ongoing stimulation of the muscles can then cause pain or discomfort from the muscle spasms. This is why neck problems can sometimes be hard to differentiate from shoulder and back muscle issues.

When muscles are affected by a spine problem, the muscle cramping can be uncomfortable or painful. A muscle relaxer can help ease that pain.

For example, individuals with neck problems often find they have pain in their back and shoulder muscles. (Learn more: Could your Shoulder Pain Be Related to Your Neck?) When this happens, doctors sometimes prescribe muscle relaxers for the back/shoulder pain.

Benefits of Muscle Relaxants

As we noted, muscle relaxers can help ease the pain caused by muscle cramping and spasms.

They can also help an individual sleep if their muscle pain is making that difficult.

Also, a doctor may prescribe a muscle relaxant if you can’t take traditional over the counter medications for another reason like an ulcer or liver problems.

Muscle Relaxant Side Effects

Muscle relaxers can cause drowsiness. Therefore, doctors may prescribe them for patients whose pain is preventing them from getting good sleep. However, it should be noted that operating machinery isn’t recommended while taking muscle relaxants. The drowsiness, or sedation effects of the drugs, can make it difficult to focus. In addition, alcohol should be avoided while taking this medication as it can amplify these effects.

Another potential side effect is liver damage. For this reason, your doctor may monitor your liver while you’re on these meds.

Other side effects of muscle relaxers can include reduced blood pressure, dry mouth, and depression.

Muscle Relaxer Risks

Muscle relaxers are a controlled substance. This is due their addictive nature and one of the main risks of taking these medications. Because of this doctors, may opt for other treatment options, like physical therapy or over the counter anti-inflammatories, before recommending muscle relaxers. In addition, they’re more likely used for acute pain than chronic, as chronic use would make the individual more susceptible to addiction.


  • Muscle Relaxers: How They Work, Common Types, Side-Effects, Abuse (webmd.com)
  • Comparing Muscle Relaxants – PubMed Clinical Q&A – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)
  • Muscle Relaxants: List of Common Muscle Relaxers (spine-health.com)
*Please Note: Information on this site or any recommended sites should not be used as a diagnosis or a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.
Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery