Medical conditions that cause damage to the nervous system can cause neurological pain that makes life and recovery more difficult. Injuries to the brain and spine can cause muscle spasms and tension that cause discomfort. Plus, some diseases like multiple sclerosis can cause the same symptoms. Managing these symptoms can increase a person’s quality of life and aid in their recovery and rehabilitation.

A class of drugs called muscle relaxants is often used to manage these symptoms, including tizanidine and cyclobenzaprine. Both of these medications are similar to one another. However, they can have some distinctions that you and your doctor should consider when looking for the right medication for your needs. Learn more about how tizanidine and cyclobenzaprine compare. 

What Is Tizanidine?

Tizanidine is a prescription muscle relaxant that’s used to alleviate pain and muscle spasms that are caused by spinal injuries. The drug can also be used to treat spasticity that’s caused by neurological disorders that damage the nerves like multiple sclerosis. Tizanidine is helpful when it’s used in conjunction with physical therapy. The medication can loosen muscles to make therapy sessions more comfortable. 

Tizanidine is sold under the name Zanaflex in the U.S., and it’s been approved since 1996.

What Is Cyclobenzaprine?

Cyclobenzaprine works similarly to tizanidine, and it’s often used for the same purposes. It can relax tense muscles and ease painful spasms. Like tizanidine, it’s used alongside physical therapy to help make it more comfortable. It’s shown to be effective in muscular-skeletal problems and low back pain. Cyclobenzaprine is recommended for short-term therapeutic use because its effectiveness starts to fade after two weeks. Both drugs are useful in offering an alternative to opioids and other pain-relievers in specific cases. 

Cyclobenzaprine is sold under the brand name Flexeril in the United States. 

How Strong Are They?

Cyclobenzaprine and tizanidine are very similar in their respective strengths, based on the size of the appropriate dose of each medication. As with most prescriptions, both drugs are taken in small doses at first and increased as needed over time. Cyclobenzaprine is taken in a 5 to 10-milligram dose three times a day, and it’s recommended that the maximum daily dose doesn’t exceed 30 milligrams. Tizanidine treatment typically begins with two to four-milligram doses per day. The daily dose shouldn’t exceed 36 milligrams. Cyclobenzaprine also lasts longer in your system than tizanidine, with half-lives of 18 and 2.5 hours, respectively. 

How Are They Different?

The biggest difference between cyclobenzaprine and tizanidine is the difference between short and long-term care. Because cyclobenzaprine isn’t effective for longer than two weeks, it’s not as useful for long-term issues like neurological disorders like cerebral palsy. Instead, it’s better used for injury recovery. The drug can be used with physical therapy, which helps strengthen muscles and lead to lasting improvements within that two-week span.

Cyclobenzaprine can cause side effects, including sedation, which can be a hindrance to therapy for some patients. Tizanidine may also cause side effects like drowsiness and muscle weakness.

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