Best Medications and Herbs for Muscle Relaxation

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“Dear Pharmacist,

I was in a car accident. I’ve been taking medicine for my muscle aches and pain, but once the drug wears off, my pain returns. What are the best prescription muscle relaxers, and are there natural alternatives?”

–K.B., Los Angeles

Answer: Muscle relaxant drugs offer temporary relief for a pulled muscle, sprain, strain, stiff neck or other muscle problem. I think medications are fine for a little while, but most of you reading will need to tease out the underlying cause of your own pain.  Many of you suffer with muscle spasms and it may not dawn on you that you take a drug that depletes a nutrient from your body, which then causes chronic muscle spasms or cramps. For real.

Not knowing this could cause pain and frustration, and might force you to take muscle relaxant drugs forever! Hundreds of drugs can cause muscle aches and pains, including blood pressure drugs so please refer to my book, Drug Muggers.  More specifically read the chapters on calcium, magnesium, CoQ10, vitamin D and vitamin B6. In my book, I’ve listed the medications that deplete these nutrients, and potentially harm your muscles, causing weakness, cramps and spasms. Also, see your physician and consider physical therapy, gentle chiropractic and massage.

I will now provide a list of popular herbs and medications that temporarily relieve the pain. All of them can mess with your head, meaning cause brain fog, drowsiness and dizziness. Please don’t take these and drive:

Baclofen (Lioresal), Rx- Used for muscle spasms; it improves levels of our natural GABA, which calms our nervous system. Often used in multiple sclerosis and amazingly, it could help reduce cravings for alcohol.

Cramp Bark, Herbal supplement- The name says it all; this herb may help reduce leg cramps, spasms and pain resulting from a stiff neck. Ladies, this could help reduce cramps at that time of the month. Sold in health food stores as tea, tincture and capsule. Careful, it can lower blood pressure.

Metaxalone (Skelaxin), Rx- This blocks pain sensations temporarily. It helps with all sorts of muscle aches and pains, and one advantage over other drugs is that there is much less potential for abuse.

Valerian, Herbal supplement- Often used for insomnia and anxiety, but it also relaxes muscles.

Cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril), Rx- This is related to antidepressants and can cause dry mouth, urinary retention, constipation and dizziness.

Carisoprodol (Soma), Rx- It blocks the transmission of signals in the brain and spinal cord. It makes you terribly sleepy so you don’t feel the pain! As a pharmacist, I have to tell you I’ve seen a lot of abuse with this drug.

Kava Kava and Passionflower, Herbal dietary supplements- Both of these support muscle health and cause relaxation. Take one or the other, sold at health food stores.

Methocarbamol (Robaxin), Rx- It’s related to a cough syrup called guaifenesin. It has no direct effect on the striated muscle, or the nerve fiber but may help temporarily. Take with lots of water.