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Over-the-Counter Muscle Relaxers

Over-the-Counter Muscle Relaxers
Over-the-counter muscle relaxers imply groups of spasmolytic drugs that reduce pain, spasms and strain in the skeletal muscles, and can be purchased without being prescribed by a medical professional. The current article provides a brief account of some OTC muscle relaxants along with their brand names and common usage.
Kanika Khara
Woman receiving back massage at spa center
Muscle relaxers are drugs that alleviate pain, stiffness, swelling, or any kind of discomfort due to sprains, muscle spasms, muscle injuries and muscular disorders.
They do not heal injuries or defects but help in relaxing the muscles, thereby relieving pain. Muscle relaxers include the following two categories of drugs depending on their mode of action:
Spasmolytics: These are also known as centrally acting muscle relaxants, as they act through the central nervous system to reduce muscle stiffness and muscle pain.
Neuromuscular-blocking agents: These drugs act via the peripheral nervous system at the neuromuscular junctions, and paralyze the skeletal muscles. They are generally used in conjunction with anesthetics during various surgical procedures.
The term 'muscle relaxers' generally implies spasmolytic drugs, a few of which are available as non-prescription drugs in certain non-US countries. Given below are a few commonly used muscle relaxants. The availability status of each drug varies from country to country.
Muscle Relaxers Available OTC
Over-the-counter muscle relaxer medications include a group of different drugs that can be purchased without the prescription from a medical expert. Such OTC muscle relaxants are often used for relief from back pain as well as muscle spasms, strain and cramps.
Although available as prescription drugs in most countries, the following muscle relaxants are allowed to be sold as non-prescription drugs in certain countries.
Orphenadrine
Brand Names
Norflex, Norgesic, Nurasic, Norphen, Nabesac, Muscol

It is available as over-the-counter tablets and oral solutions in Belgium, Canada, Thailand and Mexico. It is often prescribed for alleviating the muscle pain arising due to injury, sprain, spasms and sciatica. It acts by blocking the neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, thus reducing pain. It is also available in a combination with other active ingredients like paracetamol (acetaminophen).

Methocarbamol
Brand Names
Robaxin, Robaxisal
It is available in Canada and Mexico as OTC, and is used to deal with muscle spasms and muscle rigidity, as well as for relief from acute muscle pain. It is available as single-ingredient tablets or in combination with analgesics like aspirin. However, prolonged intake of this medicine is not advisable.

Prescription Muscle Relaxers
Almost all the muscle relaxers are prescription drugs. These drugs may cause adverse effects leading to cardiac and hepatic problems in certain individuals. It is imperative to consider the medical history, risks and age, before deciding the drug and the dosage. Hence, in most of the countries, including USA, their availability is strictly prescription-based.
Tizanidine
Brand Name
Zanflex
This muscle relaxant is prescribed for spasms and increased muscle tone due to ailments like multiple sclerosis, stroke as well as brain or spinal cord injury. It is also used as part of the treatment for fibromyalgia, and is available in the tablet and capsule forms.

Metaxalone
Brand Name
Skelaxin
It is used in the treatment of skeletal muscle disorders as well as muscle sprain and injury. It is available in the tablet form, and acts through central nervous system depression. Caution is recommended when being prescribed for people with renal or hepatic impairments.

Carbamazepine
Brand Names
Tegretol, Mazetol, Hermolepsin, Carbatrol
It is primarily used in the treatment of seizures, depression, abnormal moods as well as congenital myotonia (abnormally slow relaxation of muscles due to congenital defects). It is also used to relieve severe pain of the jaw or cheek caused by a facial nerve problem (trigeminal neuralgia). It is available in the form of tablets and capsules under several brand names.

Baclofen
Brand Names
Lioresal, Gablofen, Kemstro, Liofen
Baclofen is prescribed to minimize the frequency and severity of muscle spasms arising due to neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy. It is also effective in improving muscle movements. Commonly available in the tablet form, it is also being used as an important ingredient in topical creams.

Muscle relaxers are used in the treatment of several conditions and diseases involving musculoskeletal problems as well as neuromuscular ailments. They help to provide relief from the pain and discomfort associated with such conditions. However, each drug has its own set of side effects and limitations. Hence, it is essential to seek professional consultation before resorting to such medications.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.