Should I use muscle relaxants?

Sometimes ‘muscle relaxants’ (in the UK often called diazepam or temazepam) are given by GP’s to help in the pain management of a back pain episode. A typical ‘cocktail’ would be an anti-inflammatory drug to combat inflammation along with a painkiller (often a codeine-based one) to block pain signals reaching the brain plus a third element – the aforementioned muscle relaxant.

My tip is to be a little cautious about taking ‘muscle relaxant’ medications. They belong to a class of drugs called anti-anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs). The traditional justification for giving these drugs in back pain episodes went like this;

  • this patient is anxious
  • anxiety raises muscle tension
  • muscle tension worsens pain
  • therefore let’s give diazepam (etc.)

    But, there are some pitfalls with this approach;

    • they can make you feel ‘zonked out’ the next morning
    • they don’t actually relax muscles at all
    • but even if they did, muscle tension per se is NOT the primary cause of painful spines

      Be careful in your use of ‘muscle relaxants’.