Muscle Relaxers Prescribed for Arthritis

Arthritis and other rheumatological conditions generally involve joint pain. But sometimes, prescription muscle relaxers can help with symptom relief.

In some cases, they can help you get over a short-term problem. Other times, they may be needed long-term.

This article looks at how muscle relaxers are used in arthritis-related conditions, the symptoms they may alleviate, and how they work.

A doctor giving a prescription bottle to her patient
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Why Muscle Relaxers?

Muscle relaxers are often prescribed as a temporary treatment for muscle pain, especially along the spine. This may be due to an arthritis flare or an injury that makes your arthritis pain worse.

Some rheumatological conditions cause muscle spasms. This is especially the case in the chronic pain condition fibromyalgia. In rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases, joint damage or inflammation may affect muscles and cause pain, as well.

Although not FDA approved for long term use, rheumatologists routinely prescribe Flexeril for nightly use to increase stage 4 sleep. That can help you feel more refreshed in the morning.

Common Muscle Relaxers

Some common muscle relaxers are:

These medications can cause drowsiness. Skelaxin is the least likely to make you tired, so it may be a good choice for daytime use.

While Flexeril is marketed as a muscle relaxant, its mechanism of action is similar to that of tricyclic anti-depressants like Elavil (amitriptyline). It may offer additional benefits to people with fibromyalgia, sleep problems, or co-existing depression.

Muscle relaxants in general are thought to affect the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) rather than act directly on muscles.

Summary

Muscle relaxers are sometimes prescribed for people with arthritis or other rheumatological conditions. They may help with short-term pain or chronic problems with muscle pain or spasm.

These drugs may also help you sleep better. Flexeril is similar to some anti-depressants and is a good choice for improving sleep. Skelaxin is the least likely one to make you tired.

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7 Sources
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Additional Reading
  • Answer provided by Scott J. Zashin, MD, clinical assistant professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Division of Rheumatology, in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Zashin is also an attending physician at Presbyterian Hospitals of Dallas and Plano. He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and the American College of Rheumatology and a member of the American Medical Association. Dr. Zashin is author of "Arthritis Without Pain - The Miracle Of Anti-TNF Blockers."