What is the Difference Between Tizanidine and Flexeril?
As you age, you may notice your muscles feeling stiffer or tighter than usual. Some people can alleviate pain and stiffness with stretches and physical therapy, however, there are certain conditions such as spinal injuries, cerebral palsy, and multiple sclerosis that impact muscle health and limit movement. People with such conditions may be prescribed muscle relaxers like tizanidine or Flexeril that help relax muscles, allowing them to stretch out and move better.
Muscle relaxers work by reducing muscle spasticity. Spasticity refers to spasms or tightness that occur when the muscles remain contracted and are resisting being stretched, affecting movement, gait, and speech.
What is Tizanidine (Zanaflex)?
Tizanidine is a muscle relaxer that was approved by the FDA in 1996 and is used to treat stiff, rigid muscles. It is often sold under the brand name Zanaflex and is helpful for treating spinal injuries as well as neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Tizanidine is usually prescribed alongside physical therapy to help ease discomfort during treatment.
Common side effects of tizanidine (Zanaflex) include:
- Dry mouth
- Urinary tract infections
Tizanidine may interact negatively with alcohol and other drugs, including:
- Birth control pills
- Blood pressure medications
- Heart rhythm medications
What is Cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril)?
Cyclobenzaprine is a popular muscle relaxer that was approved by the FDA in the 1970s and is used to treat muscle pain and discomfort for short periods of time, usually no longer than 2-3 weeks. It is widely known by the brand name Flexeril and is primarily used to treat acute muscle injury when rest and physical therapy are not effective on their own. The medication can relax muscles, prevent muscle spasms, and alleviate pain associated with spasms.
Although the brand name Flexeril has been discontinued in the U.S., generic cyclobenzaprine is still prescribed in immediate-release or extended-release capsules. Brand names for cyclobenzaprine that are still available via prescription include Amrix (extended-release) and Fexmis (immediate-release).
Common side effects of cyclobenzaprine include:
- Dry mouth
Like tizanidine, Flexeril may also interact negatively with alcohol and other medications, including:
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
- Tramadol and other central nervous system depressants
- And others
Because cyclobenzaprine is considered a cyclical antidepressant, it cannot be taken with many other types of antidepressant medications.
Is Zanaflex or Flexeril Stronger?
In terms of strength, tizanidine and cyclobenzaprine are similar. Both are prescribed in tablet form. Physicians usually start patients off at lower doses and increase their doses, as necessary. However, tizanidine treatment starts at 2-4 mg taken three times a day while cyclobenzaprine treatment starts at 5-10mg taken three times per day. So in terms of dose, tizanidine is more potent.
How are Tizanidine and Flexeril Different?
While both medications are muscle relaxers, they differ in side effects, risks, and what they are used to treat. For example, Zanaflex (tizanidine) is used to treat muscle spasticity linked to MS and spinal cord injuries while cyclobenzaprine is used to treat skeletal muscle pain and spasms. Cyclobenzaprine is available in extended-release formulations while tizanidine is not.
Tizanidine may be dangerous for people with liver or kidney problems, but Flexeril is safe to use if you have liver or kidney problems. However, there are more long-term risks associated with cyclobenzaprine, and tizanidine has more evidence that it is effective for long-term use. In fact, there is no research that suggests long-term cyclobenzaprine is safe and effective.
Can You Get Addicted to Zanaflex or Flexeril?
Tizanidine (Zanaflex) is not usually addictive because it doesn’t produce feelings of euphoria or pleasure. However, it is physically habit-forming, so taking it for extended periods of time can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms upon cessation. People should never stop taking Zanaflex without directions to do so from their doctor. Doctors will usually taper patients off Zanaflex slowly so they don’t go into withdrawal.
Flexeril, on the other hand, is not recognized by medical professionals as addictive, but there is evidence that it may be possible to get addicted to it. In high doses, Flexeril can produce calming and pain-relieving effects that are desirable by some people, and this is part of the reason it was only meant to be used for short periods of time. Abruptly stopping Flexeril can lead to undesirable symptoms of withdrawal.
Find Help for Prescription Drug Abuse and Addiction Today
Muscle relaxers are non-narcotic, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t addictive. People can and do get addicted to muscle relaxers and other prescription drugs.
If you or someone you love are struggling with prescription drug addiction, please contact our team at South Carolina Addiction Treatment today. Our comprehensive detox and treatment programs can provide you with the resources and support you need to start your recovery journey. Call now to begin.
Medically Reviewed: November 21, 2023
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.