There are many ways to treat muscle pain. You muscle pain can be caused by an injury, overuse or a musculoskeletal disorder. To effectively treat your pain, it is recommended to make changes in diet and lifestyle with the combination of drug therapy.

Depending on the cause and the severity of your pain, your doctor may recommend drug or drugs from one or more of the following drug class:

  • Paracetamol;
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs);
  • Muscle relaxants;
  • Opioids pain relievers;
  • Corticosteroids;
  • Antidepressants;
  • Anticonvulsants, also known as anti-seizure medications or neuroleptic drugs.

These drugs can be used orally or be given by injection (usually administered by your doctor).


Paracetamol can help relieve your muscle pain but is more effective for very mild pain such as a headache. The reason for this is paracetamol has been shown to work primarily in certain parts of the brain, the central nervous system while other pain relievers work in both central and peripheral nervous system. This is why paracetamol is very effective in relieving fever.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Like paracetamol, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can relieve fever and pain. It slightly works differently and is more effective for pain relief. NSAIDs work by blocking the production of prostaglandin, which is a chemical in our immune system that is responsible for pain and fever. More specifically, it blocks an enzyme called cyclooxygenase (COX-1 and COX-2). Common drugs include ibuprofen, diclofenac, and naproxen.

Using NSAIDs may increase the risk of heart attack or stroke and have also been known to worsen symptoms of heartburn and ulcers. NSAIDs should be used with caution in patients with heart conditions and ulcers. You should talk to your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

COX-2 inhibitors 

This is a newer class of NSAIDs. These drugs work similarly to NSAIDs except it does not block COX-1, which is the main cause for stomach irritation. These drugs are best for patients who have sensitive stomachs. COX-2 inhibitors commonly treat conditions such as arthritis and other joint disorders.

Some common drugs include celecoxib (Celebrex ®) and etoricoxib (Arcoxia®).


Corticosteroids are very powerful as anti-inflammatory medications but should only be used for short periods of time (one to two weeks). Corticosteroids are usually prescribed by your doctor and may be given as a tapered dose. This means that you would start with a high dose and slowly take a lower dose day by day over a course of five to six days or as instructed by your doctor.

Corticosteroids can bring several side effects such as weight gain, upset stomach, headache, mood changes, and trouble sleeping. It can also weaken your immune system, and thin out your bones. Avoiding prolonged use can minimize these side effects.

Muscle relaxants

Muscle relaxants are usually used in combination with other drugs for back pain associated with muscle spasms. It works centrally in the brain and not directly on the muscle. It tells your brain to relax the muscles.

Some common drugs include baclofen, cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril®), carisoprodol (Soma ®) and eperisone (Myonal ®).


Opioids are more potent pain relievers that are generally used for more severe pain. These drugs require a prescription from your doctor and regular monitoring. It works by blocking pain receptors in the brain. It can also cause effects on your heart rate and breathing. Some examples of opioids include:

  • Morphine;
  • Fentanyl;
  • Oxycodone;
  • Codeine.

Side effects of opioids may include severe drowsiness, nausea, constipation, itching, lower heart rate and slow breathing. Drug dependency may develop if you take opioids regularly over the long period of time. Talk to your doctor on how you can prevent this from happening.


Antidepressants are normally used to treat depression but can also treat pain by altering the levels of chemicals in the brain, specifically serotonin and norepinephrine. These brain chemicals have been shown to affect pain receptors as well as mood receptors. People with chronic pain conditions that do not respond to other treatments can use these medications to control pain.

Some antidepressant medications include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs: These drugs increase levels of serotonin. Include drugs such as citalopram (Celexa®), fluoxetine (Prozac®), paroxetine (Paxil®), and sertraline (Zoloft®).
  • Tricyclic antidepressants, TCAs: These drugs increase levels of norepinephrine and serotonin. Include drugs such as amitriptyline, desipramine (Norpramin®), doxepin (Silenor®), imipramine (Tofranil®), and nortriptyline (Pamelor®).
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, SNRIs: Include drugs such as venlafaxine (Effexor®) and duloxetine (Cymbalta®).

The most common side effects with antidepressants include blurry vision, constipation, difficulty urinating, dry mouth, fatigue, nausea, and headache.

Anticonvulsants (neuroleptic drugs)

Anticonvulsants are often used to relieve nerve or neuropathic pain. Patients may take neuroleptic drugs safely for prolonged periods of time. In general, people react well to anticonvulsants. The most common side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea.

Some common drugs are gabapentin (Neurontin®), carbamazepine (Tegretol®) and pregabalin (Lyrica®).

Not all of these drug classes may be suited for you. You should talk to your doctor about your condition and severity of your muscle pain. Do not try to self-medicate if you do not understand your condition completely.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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