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Compare Muscle Relaxers: OTC vs. Prescription, Side Effects, Cost

Written by Shivam Patel, PharmD, BSPS, RPh | Posted March 30, 2021 | Updated April 06, 2021

Muscle relaxers help us recover from chronic or severe pain. Severe pain can seriously affect your quality of sleep, causing uncomfortable cranky mornings. If you are experiencing back or neck pain you may already have some great first-line OTC options in your house that can provide relief such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) and Advil (ibuprofen) and if you don’t have them at home these medications will be readily available at your local pharmacy without a prescription. When OTC options simply don’t work for your muscle pain there are many effective prescription medication options like Flexeril (cyclobenzaprine), Robaxin (Methocarbamol), and Skelaxin (metaxalone). These medications make up 45% of all prescriptions indicated for lower back pain. However, these drugs are best at treating specific types of muscle pain so read more below on what may be a good fit for you.

Before you speak with your provider about prescription muscle relaxers, make sure you have tried over-the-counter (OTC) therapies like Tylenol and Advil for pain relief already, and take note of how you responded to them. 

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Help me, OTCs. You’re my only first hope.

Check out the table below for the best OTC medications you could try first for effective muscle pain relief.

Compare Over-the-Counter Muscle Pain Relief 

Brand Name (generic name) What type of pain is it good for? Side Effects
Tylenol (acetaminophen) Good for General aches and pains such as back or neck pain.   Effective with headaches. If taken excessively, may cause liver damage.    Monitor Tylenol intake if you have concurrent liver issues or consume large amounts of alcohol.
Advil (ibuprofen) Good for pain caused by inflammation like sprains, fractured bones, and arthritis.   Good for general aches and pains such as back or neck pain.    Effective with headaches Nausea    Mild indigestion    Upset stomach   Avoid use if you have concurrent kidney issues.

Learn if you can take Tylenol and ibuprofen together here.

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When OTCs don’t do the trick, prescription pain relief will save the day!

If you have tried the medications discussed above but your stubborn muscle pain is unresolved, it may be time to discuss prescription options with your provider. First, let's go over different types of muscle pain so it's easier for you to identify the best drug for you.

Acute Musculoskeletal Pain

Acute musculoskeletal pain occurs in a specific area of the body, in the muscles, joints, bones, and ligaments.

Muscle Spasm Pain

Muscle spasm pain occurs when your muscles contract involuntarily. This can occur with all the muscle groups throughout your body. Muscle spasms are usually caused by not drinking enough water, overexercise, and/or stress.

Spasticity Pain

Spasticity pain is caused by your muscles tightening or stiffening in a way that prevents comfortable fluid movement. Muscles become contracted and resist stretching. 

Compare drugs in the table below for the best prescription medications you can try for effective muscle pain relief:

Compare Prescription Muscle Relaxants

Brand Name (generic name) What type of pain is it good for? Side Effects Pharmacist Notes
Flexeril (cyclobenzaprine) Muscle spasm pain
  • Drowsiness
  • Urinary retention
  • Dry mouth
  • Elevated eye pressure
This drug will make you drowsy and want to sleep. Check with your provider to break up your dosing in half to prevent this.   May make your mouth dry.
Robaxin (Methocarbamol) Acute musculoskeletal pain   Good for back and neck pain
  • Colored Urine (brown, black, or green)
  • Dizziness 
  • Nausea 
Good first-line choice for acute muscle pain. Not as sedative than Flexeril and Soma.
Soma  (carisoprodol) Acute musculoskeletal pain
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
Caution, controlled medication due to potential for abuse. Other better options are available but if you must, use this for 2-3 weeks max.
Lioresal (baclofen Spasticity
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Weakness
  • Tiredness
Good if you have had a spinal cord injury but not firstline for back and neck pain.
Zanaflex  (tizanidine) Spasticity
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Weakness
Good if you have cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis but not firstline for back and neck pain.
Skelaxin (metaxalone) Acute musculoskeletal pain
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Nervousness
You don’t need to worry too much about side effects and drowsiness compared to other relaxants.
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How much do muscle relaxers cost?

Now that you understand which muscle relaxers apply best to your pain, let’s see which ones are the most cost effective. You can compare prices of different muscle relaxers below.

Compare Prices for Prescription Muscle Relaxants

Brand Name (generic name) Strength Quantity U.S. Average Retail Price (From PC unless stated otherwise) Lowest price with U.S. Discount Card  Lowest PharmacyChecker Accredited International Pharmacy Price
Fexmid (cyclobenzaprine) 10mg, 100 tablets $889.37 (goodrx) $668.41 (goodrx) $84.11
Generic Fexmid (cyclobenzaprine) 10mg, 100 tablets $44 $9.86 $59.95
Robaxin (methocarbamol) 750mg, 100 tablets $361.42 $298.20 $50.99
Generic Robaxin (methocarbamol) 750mg, 100 tablets $59.35 $14.06 -
Robaxin (methocarbamol) 500mg, 100 tablets $225.65 $193.63 (goodrx) $83.89
Generic Robaxin (methocarbamol) 500mg, 100 tablets $22.50 $10.19 $25
Soma  (carisoprodol) 250mg, 30 tablets $270.17 $198.30 Controlled*
Generic Soma (carisoprodol) 250mg, 30 tablets $93.48 $9.22 Controlled*-
Lioresal (baclofen)  10mg, 50 tablets Brand Discontinued Brand Discontinued $29.99
Generic Lioresal (baclofen) 10mg, 50 tablets  $39.31 $14.52 $28.99
Zanaflex  (tizanidine) 4mg, 60 tablets $249.10 $231.77 $171.67
Generic Lioresal (tizanidine) 4mg, 60 tablets $183.60 $35.49 $42
Skelaxin (metaxalone) 800mg, 50 tablets $629.95 $510.95 -
Generic Skelaxin (metaxalone) 800mg, 50 tablets $251.61 $36.07 -
Generic Skelaxin (metaxalone) 400mg, 50 tablets $339 $104.56 $41.95

U.S. average prices according to PharmacyChecker.com and goodrx.com. U.S. Discount Card prices according to pharmacy discounts listed on PharmacyChecker.com near the zip code 10605.

Controlled* - PharmacyChecker-accredited international online pharmacies are not permitted to market and sell controlled prescription medications into the U.S. as defined by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

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Where are muscle relaxers made?

Packaging of generic Robaxin (methocarbamol) marketed in the U.S. shows it is manufactured by Granules India Limited in India.

Packaging of generic Flexeril (cyclobenzaprine) marketed in the U.S. shows it is manufactured by TWi Pharmaceuticals of Taiwan.

Packaging of Baclofen marketed in the U.S. shows it is manufactured by Rubicon Research Private Limited of India.

 
 

Consumer safety above all.

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