Maximum Relaxation: Finding the Best Muscle Relaxer For Fibromyalgia Pain
Relief from Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) pain is often difficult to find. There is no magical cure for FMS, so those of us who have it do our best to win our daily battles against pain and fatigue.
One of the things that doctors recommend for their patients with Fibromyalgia is taking a good muscle relaxer.
These can either be prescribed by your doctor or purchased over-the-counter. There are quite a few of them on the market, so it’s hard to know which one will work the best without trying a couple of them.
So, which ones should you try? Which ones are you likely to get recommended to you by your doctor? Let’s take a look at some of the most popular options.
Why Does Fibromyalgia Cause So Much Muscle Pain?
To understand why muscle relaxers are commonly prescribed, we first need to understand what causes so much muscle pain in those with FMS.
You and about 5 million other Americans with Fibro have a total of 18 pressure points on the body, and at least 11 of them might be active at once when you are amid a flare-up.
The activation of these pressure points is generally how your doctor diagnoses FMS.
Pain is your body’s way of telling your brain that something is wrong. Your skin has 20-plus types of nerve endings that relay signals to your central nervous system (CNS), telling your brain that you are experiencing a painful external stimulus. But what happens when the pain results from an internal stimulus?
There is some research to suggest that those with FMS have bodies that are experiencing technical errors.
In other words, your body might be overly-sensitive to a particular stimulus or set of stimuli that are typically not that painful.
This could be due, at least in part, to the fact that those with FMS have a decreased blood flow to the brain.
Therefore, it is difficult to find relief from the intense muscle pain you experience. And, as many with FMS are fully aware, the pain is chronic.
How Do Muscle Relaxers Work?
Prescribed muscle relaxers come in one of two forms, antispastics or antispasmodics.
Antispasmodics (such as tizanidine and cyclobenzaprine) are generally prescribed for short-term use and work by preventing your nerve endings from sending pain signals to your CNS.
These are used to treat muscle spasms but seem to also be effective in decreasing the pain FMS patients experience in their pressure points.
Antispastics, on the other hand, do not treat muscle spasms, just muscle spasticity ( a condition in which the muscles are consistently contracted).
Diazepam, Baclofen, and Dantrolene are the three most commonly-prescribed antispastics.
Baclofen is often used to treat those with Multiple Sclerosis, but it has been used to help treat back spasms and pain in those with FMS.
It has the apparent ability to block nerve signals located along the spinal cord from relaying pain messages to the brain.
Are Muscle Relaxers Effective?
Muscle relaxers can be effective, at least in providing some short-term relief. While they do not permanently stop your nerve endings from emitting unnecessary pain signals, most muscle relaxers seem to slow the process down to a more manageable minimum.
Additionally, muscle relaxers appear to relieve some of the anxiety that comes along with FMS.
Stress and anxiety will cause muscles to become tense, which adds to the sensation of pain in your pressure points.
However, many muscle relaxers have a major unwanted side effect – sedation. Diazepam is a particularly potent sedative, as is Metaxalone.
Lower dosages of Cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril) and Tizanidine (Zanaflex) tend to offer the best results without knocking you out.
Taking Cyclobenzaprine For Fibromyalgia
Cyclobenzaprine, also known as Flexeril, is one of the most doctor-recommended muscle relaxers for those with FMS.
This is because it not only alleviates pain symptoms but additionally promotes a better night’s rest.
It is commonly taken before bed at a starting dosage of somewhere between 5-10 mg.
Cyclobenzaprine has some side effects, many of which are rather uncommon. The most common side effects are dry mouth, dizziness, and blurred vision.
When prescribed in higher dosages, it can cause drowsiness. However, smaller dosages do not provide as much sedation, which is why this is a go-to prescription for many FMS doctors.
Taking Orphenadrine Citrate For Fibromyalgia
Orphenadrine Citrate is another commonly-prescribed muscle relaxer that is used to treat FMS pain.
It is often combined into Norgesic, which also includes aspirin and caffeine. It has many of the same common side effects as Cyclobenzaprine.
Orphenadrine itself blocks the pain signals coming from your pressure points while aspirin and caffeine are added for extra pain-relieving effects.
As Norgesic, the drug can have multiple interactions with other drugs (especially NSAIDs and anticoagulants), so you must discuss these risks with your doctor.
Taking Metaxalone For Fibromyalgia
Metaxalone (Skelaxin) is a relatively strong muscle relaxer that tends to get prescribed in higher dosages.
Since it gets metabolized in the liver, those who are at risk for or who have liver disease should proceed with caution.
However, many who have taken Metaxalone for FMS have reported that it is effective at stopping the pain signals, relaxing the muscles, and easing muscle spasms. It works the best when taken with food since its bioavailability gets increases.
Taking Alprazolam For Fibromyalgia
Alprazolam (better known as Xanax) is a benzodiazepine that often gets used to treat anxiety, panic, and stress disorders.
It has been found to benefit those with FMS due to its ability to relieve muscular tension.
Alprazolam has a few common side effects, including feeling anxious upon awakening and feeling drowsy.
One study found that combining Alprazolam with Ibuprofen could potentially benefit those with FMS.
Compared with those who were receiving just Alprazolam, Ibuprofen, or a placebo, the group who received the Alprazolam/Ibuprofen combination reportedly had the most significant results.
Is It Safe to Take Over-the-Counter Muscle Relaxers?
Since we have already discussed some of the most effective types of prescription muscle relaxers for FMS pain, it is time to talk about the over-the-counter (OTC) muscle relaxers.
OTCs tend to be predominantly manufactured as topical agents that can easily be applied to your skin.
Muscle relaxing creams can provide some temporary relief when applied to the area of the skin where you are experiencing pain.
However, these creams do not completely block your nerve endings from relaying pain signals.
While these creams are generally safe to apply (and should never be orally taken), they probably will not be enough on their own.
However, if you are already using a prescribed muscle relaxer, you might find that applying a topical cream adds a little bit of extra relief.
Many of these creams are relatively inexpensive and can be found in any pharmacy or grocery store, as well as online.
What About Natural Supplements?
Prescription medications are not always a preferred (or affordable, depending on your insurance) option.
Luckily, there are some at-home remedies that those with Fibro tend to try before deciding on whether to give prescription muscle relaxers a try.
Aside from eliminating certain foods that can trigger Fibro pain and adding a lot of fruits and veggies, you might need to consider supplementing your diet with vitamins and minerals.
Many with Fibromyalgia have a magnesium deficiency, which can result in muscle spasms, twitches, and pain.
Your doctor might recommend that you supplement your diet with somewhere between 250 mg and 500 mg of magnesium every day to help decrease your muscle pain.
Fish oil and flaxseed oil have also been known to reduce muscle pain and eliminate a significant amount of bodily inflammation.
Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to aid in the treatment of sore muscles and help repair peripheral nerve cell damage. Flaxseed oil works similarly and is well-suited for vegans.
In addition to being magnesium deficient, many with FMS are also deficient in vitamin D3.
Taking a maximum of 4,000 IU or less seems to benefit many people, and D3 is considered safe for children to consume at the right dosage level.
It is currently unknown whether a D3 deficiency causes or exacerbates Fibromyalgia, but supplementing it is crucial for everyday functionality.
If you are at all attuned to Ayurvedic medicine, you’ve probably heard of people with FMS, MS, and various autoimmune diseases relying on adaptogenic herbs like Ashwagandha and Rhodiola Rosea.
These two herbs have been medicinally used for hundreds of years in many parts of the world.
Recently, these herbs have become more popular due to their seemingly immense healing properties. Rhodiola and Ashwagandha are both known to decrease fatigue, emotional and physical stress, and oxidative stress on the cells (which is what leads to cell damage).
There is some evidence to suggest that Ashwagandha can decrease some muscle damage and alleviate pain symptoms.
Regardless of which route you decide to take, always make sure that you are acting under the guidance of a licensed clinician.
A general physician or functional doctor can help you find the best muscle relaxer and give you additional tips on how to ease some of your pain.