Tizanidine and baclofen, both muscle relaxant medications, are used to treat a condition called muscle spasticity. Muscle spasticity refers to muscle twitches, spasms, and tightening that can be uncomfortable or painful. These two drugs share several similarities, but they differ in a few ways that you and your doctor may consider if you’re looking for treatment options. Their respective strengths are slightly different, which might be something your doctor considers. Learn more about tizanidine and baclofen and how they compare.
What is Tizanidine?
Tizanidine is a muscle relaxant that is sold under the brand name Zanaflex. It’s been used in the treatment of muscle spasms and pain since it the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it in 1977. Tizanidine is used to treat injuries that cause muscle spasticity, but it can also treat diseases like multiple sclerosis that damage nerves in a way that can cause muscle pain and spasms. Tizanidine offers an alternative to traditional pain relievers like opioids that can have more troubling side effects like dependence, constipation, and itchiness. Tizanidine can help alleviate symptoms that would otherwise make therapies like physical therapy too painful.
What is Baclofen?
Baclofen is a muscle relaxant that’s similar to tizanidine, and it’s used for similar medical uses. It has been sold under the brand name Lioresal since it was approved in 1977. It’s used to treat muscle spasms that are caused by injuries and neurological damage. It may also be used to treat troublesome hiccups and spasms, but it’s generally only prescribed for this purpose to people during end-of-life care. It’s another non-opioid pain relief option for people with neurological damage, and it can be a helpful medication alongside physical therapy.
How Strong Are They?
Tizanidine and baclofen have similar strengths, but tizanidine is slightly stronger. Considering the doses in which they are commonly taken, baclofen is slightly weaker and requires a few more milligrams in an appropriate dose.
Both medications involve treatment that starts with a smaller dose that increases throughout treatment.
Baclofen may start at 5 mg (milligrams), and it’s taken three times a day. It’s recommended that a daily dose should not exceed more than 80 mg.
Tizanidine starts at just 2 mg, and it’s taken 3 mg to 4 mg per day. The smaller appropriate dose indicates that it’s slightly more potent.
They’re both commonly taken in tablet form, but baclofen can be taken via spinal injection, which may be more potent and faster-acting than taking the drug by mouth.
How Are They Different?
Tizanidine and baclofen are similar in many respects. They’re both effective for the same treatments, and there isn’t much difference in their efficacy. Studies have looked at their side effects profiles. One found that baclofen was more likely to cause muscle weakness. Tizanidine was found to cause drowsiness and dry mouth. Though both drugs were capable of causing all of these symptoms, baclofen may also last longer in your system. It has a half-life of 6.8 hours, while tizanidine has a half-life of 6.8 hours.