Should I use muscle relaxants?

Diagram of factors involved in Injury and Inflammation

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 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

But, there are some pitfalls with this approach

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