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10.2.2 Skeletal muscle relaxants

1st choiceBaclofen tablets 10mg; oral solution 5mg/5mL
2nd choiceTizanidine tablets 2mg, 4mg
Diazepam tablets 2mg, 5mg, 10mg; oral solution 2mg/5mL; injection (solution) 5ml/mL; injection (emulsion) 5ml/mL; rectal tubes 2mg/mL

Prescribing Notes

  • Refer also to the Central Nervous System (Chapter 4) section of the Northern Ireland Formulary, see 4.8.2 Status Epilepticus.
  • Skeletal muscle relaxants are used for the relief of chronic muscle spasm or spasticity associated with neurological damage; they are not indicated for spasm associated with minor injuries. Skeletal muscle relaxants differ in action from the muscle relaxants used in anaesthesia (BNF Chapter 15 ), which block transmission at the neuromuscular junction.
  • For muscle spasm associated with MS see NG220
  • The underlying cause of spasticity should be treated and any aggravating factors (e.g. pressure sores, infection) remedied. Skeletal muscle relaxants are effective in most forms of spasticity, except the rare alpha variety. The major disadvantage of treatment with these drugs is that reduction in muscle tone can cause a loss of splinting action of the spastic leg and trunk muscles and sometimes lead to an increase in disability.
  • Serious side-effects can occur following abrupt withdrawal of baclofen; therapy should be discontinued by gradual dose reduction over at least 1-2 weeks (longer if symptoms occur).
  • Benzodiazepines (most notable diazepam) should be used only if there is clinical evidence of muscle spasm that is painful or causing disability.
  • In the case of back or neck pain, benzodiazepines should be discontinued after a maximum period of 5-7 days. Further prescriptions should only be issued after assessment of the patient and the identification of persistent muscle spasm.
  • There is rarely any place for regular muscle relaxants in the management of back and neck pain.
  • The clinical efficacy of methocarbamol as a muscle relaxant is not well established. It is classed by the BNF as ‘less suitable for prescribing’ and is not generally recommended.


  • See here for cautions when prescribing benzodiazepines.