Muscle relaxants are not available over the counter in the United States as of 2014, says Mayo Clinic. Relaxants are only available with a doctor's prescription.
Muscle relaxants are medications that treat muscle problems and spasms, usually in the lower back or neck. Additionally, they are often prescribed to people with restless legs syndrome or fibromyalgia. The medicine works by depressing the central nervous system in the brain, according to WebMD. Most doctors suggest patients try an over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen first. There is also some evidence that muscle relaxants are no more effective than over-the-counter treatments, reports Consumer Reports.
In most cases, patients should not use muscle relaxants for more than two weeks at a time, as they have many side effects and can be addictive. The most common side effect of muscle relaxants is drowsiness or dizziness, so it is recommended that patients take the medication just before bed, says WebMD. Before trying a muscle relaxant, those seeking relief from muscle spasms and pain can try taking relievers such as Tylenol, heat therapy and physical therapy, suggests the Mayo Clinic. In rare cases, surgery might be necessary.
Sufferers also can ask their doctor about off-label treatments such as antidepressants. Research shows that small dosages of antidepressants may help relieve back pain, reports Mayo Clinic.