Designed to help relax specific muscles in the body, cyclobenzaprine is a drug often used in combination with rest and physical therapy to treat conditions or injuries that involve the musculoskeletal system. As with any form of medication, though, it is important to understand the specific uses and potential cyclobenzaprine side effects before use. The medication acts on the central nervous system to produce its effects, so it is also important to note any potential drug interactions.
What Is Cyclobenzaprine Used For?
As a muscle relaxant, cyclobenzaprine functions by blocking nerve impulses, or pain sensations, that are being sent to the brain. Originally discovered in 1961, it wasn’t until 1977 that the medication was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of acute muscle spasms. Today the medication is sold as a hydrochloride salt in a 10 milligram non-scored tablet under the brand name Flexeril or as a generic from several different companies.
Found to act most effectively as a muscle relaxant, cyclobenzaprine has been widely used in treatment regimens ever since its original inception. In combination with rest and physical therapy, the treatment is still currently approved by the FDA to treat muscle spasms associated with acute and painful musculoskeletal conditions. A muscle spasm can be defined as an uncontrollable contraction of the muscle itself. This medication is only effective for treating muscle spasms that are caused by issues in the muscles. It is not effective for treating spasms that are caused by issues of the central nervous system.
In addition to this known treatment use, some off-label uses are currently under investigation. While research is still inconclusive as to the medications role in treating other conditions, some medical researchers believe cyclobenzaprine may also play a role in treating other issues, including:
- Tension headaches;
- Levator ani syndrome;
Potential Cyclobenzaprine Side Effects
It is important to take this medication only as prescribed by your doctor. Taking more than you are prescribed or otherwise altering your dosing schedule or regimen may increase your risk of side effects and could even be potentially life threatening. Nonetheless, when used in a controlled situation for its intended purpose, the benefits of the medication are greater than the potential cyclobenzaprine side effects.
All drugs have potential side effects, but most people have few to minor issues. If you experience any of these common cyclobenzaprine side effects that bother you or do not go away over time, call your doctor or seek medical help.
Drowsiness of the most common side effect of this medication. This effect may occur because of the medication effect on suppressing the central nervous system. It is important to avoid operating heavy machinery or driving until you know how the medication will affect you.
Dizziness is another common cyclobenzaprine side effect. Some individuals report feeling dizzy or lightheaded after beginning treatment. Starting at as low a dose possible and adjusting from there may help reduce this symptom. Likewise, to reduce your risk of feeling dizzy, rise slowly after you have been sitting or lying down for extended periods, and be careful going up and down stairs until you have given your body sufficient time to adjust to the medication.
Some individuals taking cyclobenzaprine also noted experiencing symptoms of dry mouth when first beginning this treatment. To offset symptoms of dry mouth, drink more water and take the medication with food.
As with many other prescription medications, you may experience issues with constipation as your body adjusts to the new medication. This often occurs because of changes that occur in the balance of the flora in the gut as you introduce a new medication into the body. To reduce constipation, drink plenty of water, eat more fiber, and get regular exercise.
Because the medication acts on the central nervous system, the medication may also cause fatigue or tiredness. Be sure you are getting plenty of rest each night and avoid strenuous or taxing activities until your body has had adequate time to adjust.
Serious Side Effects
Though rare, some cyclobenzaprine side effects are serious. If you experience any of the following side effects, call your doctor right away and seek immediate medication attention:
- Fast or irregular heartbeat;
- Mental and/or mood changes, including confusion or hallucinations;
- Trouble urinating;
- Allergic reaction, involving rash, itching or swelling of the face/tongue/throat, extreme dizziness, trouble breathing.
Although not a complete list, these are the most common side effects currently associated with the medication. If you notice other concerns than those listed, contact your doctor or pharmacist.
Drug interactions can affect how your medications work or increase your chance for side effects. It is important to provide your doctor with a comprehensive list of all of the medications you are taking, including prescription and nonprescription medications as well as vitamins and herbal products. It is also important to talk with your doctor or pharmacist prior to starting, stopping, or otherwise changing the medications you are taking.
Cyclobenzaprine may interact with tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline and imipramine. Likewise, taking MAO inhibitors with cyclobenzaprine may cause potentially fatal drug interactions. Avoid taking MAOIs, including isocarboxazid, linezolid, methylene blue, and others while taking this treatment.
Before beginning this medication, tell your doctor or pharmacist about any current drug use that increases serotonin, including street drugs, St. John’s wort, antidepressants, and others. Your doctor should also know if you are currently taking any other medication that may cause drowsiness, such as opioid pain or cough relievers, alcohol, marijuana, sleep or anxiety drugs, other muscle relaxers, or antihistamines.
To treat muscle spasm, most adults take 5 milligrams orally 3 times a day. The dosage may increase to 10 milligrams 3 times a day depending on individual patient response. Treatment duration is typically 2 to 3 weeks. Some individuals may prefer an extended-release capsule, in which case dosage is 15 to 30 milligrams orally once a day for up to 3 weeks.
Cyclobenzaprine is an effective prescription treatment for muscle spasms caused by musculoskeletal issues. It is not designed to treat issues of the central nervous system, nor is it intended for long-term use. To avoid potentially danger cyclobenzaprine side effects or drug interactions, follow your doctor’s prescription recommendations and make sure he or she knows what other medications you are currently taking.