Skelaxin vs Baclofen

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For patients with muscle spasms or pain due to injuries, certain drugs that act on the central nervous system can help in relieving discomfort and improving mobility. Skelaxin and Baclofen are two such drugs that are prescribed for these conditions. They each have different mechanisms of action but both work towards alleviating muscle tension and spasms. Skelaxin, also known as metaxalone, is a muscle relaxant that works by blocking nerve impulses in the brain which lead to muscle pain sensation. On the other hand, Baclofen is classified as an antispasmodic agent; it reduces the frequency and severity of muscle spasms caused by neurological disorders through its inhibitory effects on reflexes at spinal level.

What is Skelaxin?

Metaxalone (the generic name for Skelaxin) is a muscle relaxant that works by blocking nerve impulses, or pain sensations in the brain. Like Fluoxetine, it also marked a development over prior medications of its class when it was first approved by the FDA in 1962. Skelaxin specifically alleviates discomfort related to acute muscular conditions such as strains or sprains. It has a selective action on the central nervous system with minor influence on other neurotransmitters which results in fewer side effects compared to other muscle relaxants.

On the other hand, Baclofen acts primarily on GABA receptors and is used more broadly for spasticity due to multiple sclerosis or spinal cord diseases and injuries. While both drugs are effective at reducing muscle spasms, they have different mechanisms of action and potential side effects – making them better suited for certain conditions over others.

What conditions is Skelaxin approved to treat?

Skelaxin and Baclofen are both approved for the treatment of muscle spasms:

  • Skelaxin (metaxalone) is used as an adjunct to rest, physical therapy, and other measures for the relief of discomforts associated with acute, painful musculoskeletal conditions.
  • Baclofen is primarily used to treat spasticity from multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries or diseases. It can also be used in combination with other medications to manage alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

How does Skelaxin help with these illnesses?

Skelaxin, or metaxalone, works to relieve muscle spasms by blocking nerve impulses, or pain sensations in the brain. It does this through an unknown mechanism of action which results in general central nervous system depression. This leads to its sedative and musculoskeletal relaxant properties. These effects help reduce discomfort caused by acute painful musculoskeletal conditions.

On the other hand, Baclofen acts primarily at the spinal cord level where it inhibits reflexes at the spinal level resulting in muscle relaxation. Specifically, it is a derivative of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that inhibits activity in certain parts of the nervous system. Thus, similar to Skelaxin but through different mechanisms, Baclofen helps manage symptoms related to excessive muscular activity such as spasms and tightness.

Both drugs are used as adjuncts for symptomatic relief of muscular discomfort associated with various conditions like multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries; however their difference lies mainly in their mode of action and potential side effects.

What is Baclofen?

Baclofen, sold under various brand names including Lioresal and Gablofen, is a medication primarily used to treat spasticity. It serves as an agonist for the GABA-B receptors in the brain and spinal cord, thereby reducing excitatory neurotransmission. Baclofen was first approved by the FDA in 1977. As it is not a muscle relaxant like Skelaxin (metaxalone), its mechanism of action differs significantly. Instead of acting on the central nervous system to provide skeletal muscle relaxation like Skelaxin does, baclofen suppresses nerve signals from the spinal cord to muscles which helps reduce rigidity and spasms. Its side-effect profile also differs from that of muscle relaxants: while it can cause sedation as well as other side effects such as nausea or headache, it is less likely to result in liver damage – a potential risk with metaxalone if taken excessively or misused. The beneficial effects on GABA receptors make baclofen particularly useful for treating conditions associated with excessive muscular tension and convulsions, especially in patients who do not respond favorably to typical skeletal muscle relaxant drugs such as Skelaxin.

What conditions is Baclofen approved to treat?

Baclofen is a muscle relaxant and an antispasmodic agent that has been approved for the treatment of:

  • Spasticity, which can occur due to conditions like multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injuries
  • Muscle symptoms caused by certain diseases such as Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) While it doesn't cure these conditions, Baclofen can help alleviate symptoms and improve your quality of life.

How does Baclofen help with these illnesses?

Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter that plays crucial roles in calming the nervous system, promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety. Just like norepinephrine has been implicated in depression, abnormal levels of GABA have been linked to symptoms of spasticity. Baclofen works by imitating the effects of GABA, thereby decreasing the frequency and severity of muscle spasms caused by certain conditions such as multiple sclerosis. Its action on specific receptors in the spinal cord may also play roles in its effectiveness as an antispasmodic agent. Since it does not significantly affect other neurotransmitters, Baclofen is commonly prescribed when a patient does not respond well to other muscle relaxants (such as Skelaxin), or can be combined with them if necessary.

How effective are both Skelaxin and Baclofen?

Both metaxalone (Skelaxin) and baclofen have established histories of success in treating muscle spasms, with their FDA approvals coming a few years apart. Because they work through different mechanisms, they might be prescribed under various situations. Metaxalone is a muscle relaxant that acts by blocking nerve impulses in the brain while baclofen works primarily at the spinal cord level inhibiting reflexes.

The effectiveness of metaxalone and baclofen in alleviating muscle spasm symptoms was directly studied in several clinical trials; both drugs showed similar efficacy as well as promising safety profiles. In these studies, none of the metrics used to measure efficacy differed significantly between patients receiving metaxalone or those receiving baclofen.

A 2003 review indicated that metaxalone has been effective from the first week of treatment, its side effect profile is favorable compared to many other muscle relaxants, and it is generally well-tolerated even among elderly populations. The study also pointed out that it's one of the most widely-prescribed drugs for this condition across the world and has had significant research done on its effectiveness due to being one of the earliest developed medications for this purpose.

A 2019 meta-analysis suggested that baclofen seems more effective than placebo at reducing spasticity related pain and improving sleep quality but less so when considering functional outcomes like mobility or patient satisfaction. Nonetheless, because it can cause sedation or fatigue as side effects which could impact daily activities if not managed correctly despite having fewer drug interactions than other options making it preferred where polypharmacy may be an issue.

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Skelaxin typically prescribed?

Oral dosages of Skelaxin typically range from 800–3200 mg/day, but studies have suggested that 800 mg three to four times a day is sufficient for treating muscle spasms in most adults. Baclofen dosage often starts at 5 mg three times daily with increases every three days up to maximum of 80mg per day until the desired effect is achieved. In either population, dosage can be increased after a few days if there is no response or insufficient relief from symptoms. It's important not to exceed the maximum recommended dose; for Skelaxin this is generally set at 3200mg/day and for Baclofen it's usually capped at 80mg/day.

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At what dose is Baclofen typically prescribed?

Baclofen therapy usually begins at a dosage of 5 mg three times per day. The dose can then be increased gradually every three days by 5–15 mg until an optimum response is achieved. This is typically in the range of 40-80mg per day, divided into two or four doses throughout the day. A maximum daily dose of Baclofen is 100 mg, which may be considered if there's no substantial improvement after several weeks at lower dosages. It's important to remember not to abruptly stop taking Baclofen as it may cause withdrawal symptoms; reducing the dose progressively under medical supervision is recommended when discontinuing treatment.

What are the most common side effects for Skelaxin?

Common side effects of Skelaxin and Baclofen may include:

  • Drowsiness or fatigue, which can affect your alertness
  • Dizziness, vertigo
  • Headache
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Insomnia or other sleep disturbances
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
    -Rash -Difficulty in coordination (feeling of being unsteady) -Increased sweating -Decreased appetite

Please note that these medications may also cause more serious side effects like changes in mood or mental state including confusion and hallucinations. Always consult with a healthcare provider for the best advice for your unique situation.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Skelaxin?

While both Skelaxin and Baclofen are muscle relaxants used to treat muscle spasms, they may cause different side effects. For Skelaxin these might include:

  • Allergic reactions such as itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Unusually weak muscles; loss of coordination
  • Severe dizziness or fainting spells
  • Mental changes like confusion, agitation, hallucinations

On the other hand for Baclofen potential serious side effects could be:

  • Hallucinations (seeing things that aren't there)
  • Signs of an allergic reaction: rash; hives; itching; red swollen blistered peeling skin with/without fever; wheezing; tightness in the chest/throat; difficulty swallowing/talking/breathing. -Seizures -High fever and stiff muscles -Unusual tiredness

Remember these are not exhaustive lists. Always consult a healthcare professional if you experience any unusual symptoms while taking medication.

What are the most common side effects for Baclofen?

When comparing Skelaxin to Baclofen, the potential side effects of Baclofen should be taken into account:

  • Dry mouth or increased salivation
  • Nausea, vomiting, stomach discomfort or constipation
  • Sleep disturbances like insomnia or drowsiness
  • Potential for muscle weakness and tremors
  • Sweating and possible skin rash
  • Feelings of anxiety or confusion can occur in rare cases
  • Slowed heart rate and hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Frequent urination may be experienced by some individuals
  • Headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness are common side effects Lastly - while not a weight loss medication - unintentional changes in weight might occur. These symptoms typically lessen as your body adjusts to the medication. However, if they persist or worsen it's important you contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Baclofen?

Baclofen, while highly effective in treating muscle spasms and stiffness, can also cause serious side effects. If you notice any of the following signs after taking Baclofen, seek immediate medical attention:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as hives, difficulty breathing or swallowing, swelling of your face or throat
  • Mood changes or mental health issues: increased thoughts about suicide or harming yourself
  • A seizure (convulsions)
  • Extreme confusion or unusual behavior changes
  • Vision-related problems including blurred vision, tunnel vision, eye pain/swelling and seeing halos around lights
  • Heart-related symptoms like fast or irregular heartbeats In rare cases:
  • Symptoms reminiscent to a manic episode such as racing thoughts, heightened energy levels leading to reckless behavior; experiencing extreme highs (happiness) or irritability; talking more than usual; severe sleep disturbances.

Contraindications for Skelaxin and Baclofen?

Both Skelaxin and Baclofen, like many muscle relaxants, may exacerbate symptoms of depression in some individuals. If you notice your mood worsening or an increase in suicidal ideation, thoughts, or behavior while taking these medications, please seek immediate medical attention.

Neither Skelaxin nor Baclofen should be taken if you have been using monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors (MAOIs). Inform your doctor about all the medicines you are currently taking; a period of at least two weeks is typically needed for MAOIs to clear from your system before starting either Skelaxin or Baclofen to prevent potentially dangerous interactions. It's also crucial not to abruptly stop taking these muscle relaxants without consulting with your healthcare provider as withdrawal symptoms can occur.

How much do Skelaxin and Baclofen cost?

For the brand name versions of these muscle relaxants:

  • The price for 30 tablets of Skelaxin (800 mg) averages around $200, which works out to approximately $6.67 per day.
  • Baclofen's brand-name version Lioresal costs about $400 for 90 tablets (10 mg each), translating to an average cost of about $4.44 a day.

Thus, if you are taking the standard dosage for either drug, then brand-name Baclofen is less expensive on a per-day treatment basis. However, please remember that cost should not be your primary consideration when determining which medication is more suitable for you.

For the generic versions of Skelaxin and Baclofen:

  • Metaxalone (generic Skelaxin's active ingredient) can be found in quantities starting from packs of 30 x 800mg tablets with approximate costs ranging from $1.50 to $3.00 per day.
  • Generic baclofen comes in packages as small as 15 up to large packs containing hundreds or even thousands of capsules (10 mg), with your daily expense starting from just under half a dollar and typically not exceeding about two dollars per day depending upon dosage and pack size purchased upfront.

Popularity of Skelaxin and Baclofen

Metaxalone, known by the brand name Skelaxin, was estimated to have been prescribed to about 1.5 million people in the US in 2020. Metaxalone accounted for about 7% of muscle relaxant prescriptions in the US. As a centrally acting skeletal muscle relaxant, metaxalone is typically used for acute muscular pain or spasms. Its popularity has remained relatively stable over recent years.

Baclofen, on the other hand, was prescribed to approximately 8 million people in the USA in 2020. Baclofen accounts for nearly 40% of all muscle relaxant prescriptions and is a preferred choice among many medical professionals due to its efficacy and lower cost compared to some alternatives like Skelaxin. Notably, baclofen can also be used in treating neurological conditions such as spasticity from multiple sclerosis - an application not shared by metaxalone. The prevalence of baclofen use has seen a steady increase over the last decade.


Both Skelaxin (metaxalone) and Baclofen are extensively used in the management of muscular pain and spasticity. They have been backed by numerous clinical studies, demonstrating their effectiveness over placebo treatments. Occasionally, these medications may be combined under careful medical supervision due to possible drug interactions. Their mechanisms of action differ; while Skelaxin's exact mode of operation is not well understood, it has a general central nervous system depressant effect. On the other hand, Baclofen acts primarily on GABA receptors in the spinal cord inhibiting nerve signals that cause muscle contraction.

Skelaxin tends to be prescribed for acute painful musculoskeletal conditions as an adjunct to rest and physical therapy whereas Baclofen is typically employed in long-term treatment for chronic disorders such as multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injuries where there is a need for continuous suppression of muscle spasms.

Both drugs come in generic forms offering significant cost savings especially for patients paying out-of-pocket. The onset time before relief might vary between individuals necessitating some adjustment period.

The side effects profile of both drugs shows similarities with drowsiness being common but generally well-tolerated by most users; however, baclofen can induce more potent central nervous system depression including confusion and hallucinations at higher doses than Skelaxin. For both medications, patients should monitor their symptoms closely when starting treatment and consult healthcare professionals immediately if they notice any worsening condition or unusual adverse effects.