Can A Common Cold Medicine Help Neck Pain?
In a recent 2017 study in the Journal of Pain Research, 77 subjects suffering neck, upper back or shoulder pain and muscle spasm were given doses of guaifenesin, an over the counter expectorant, often found under the name Mucinex or Robitussin, among others. Could these common cold medicines help neck pain?
Musculoskeletal disorders of the neck, upper back and shoulders are often experienced in occupations which require long periods of sitting at a computer, or using extreme or static/fixed postures. They are also noted with occupations that require frequent repeated motions and physical exertion. In the neck, muscle fatigue is often related to poor postures and overworking, resulting in strain, tension and over-active muscles. Over time, associated conditions like tension neck syndrome, upper back pain, and shoulder tendonitis/rotator cuff syndrome, can lead to chronic pain and disability from deterioration of soft tissues like muscles, tendons and ligaments, as well as inflammation of joints.
Proper ergonomics, exercise and stretching are usually effective to help prevent and manage long term effects. Many turn to medicines like over the counter acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs. Muscle relaxants are another method of using prescription drugs to help reduce muscle spams, pain and stiffness. Unfortunately, many muscle relaxants produce side effects like dry mouth, weakness, dizziness and tiredness.
The authors of the study note previous indications that guaifenesin has muscle relaxing, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic effects. Therefore, they aimed to test the effects of higher doses for neck, upper back and shoulder pain and muscle spasm. The subjects were healthy individuals 18 to 65 years of age and a new episode of acute neck, upper back, or shoulder pain and muscle spasm within 48 hours onset.
Results: A Common Cold Medicine Helps Neck Pain
The authors monitored changes in muscle spasm over a 7 day period. They recorded changes in pain, tension, relaxation and discomfort. The results showed the administering 1200 mg, twice a day reduced muscle spasm by 25%, pain by 52%, tension by 28%, and discomfort by 108% over placebo. The effects on muscle spasm was greater on day 7 than day 4, by 22%.
Although there is a natural tendency for acute, non-specific episodes of neck, upper back and shoulder pain to resolve within 7 days, the treatment using this common cold medicine was statistically significant for muscle discomfort. So, 1200 mg – 2 times per day of Mucinex or Robitussin may have the potential effect of a muscle relaxant.
The authors state, “The availability of an OTC muscle relaxant may provide timely access to an effective remedy for relief of acute symptoms.” They recommend more detailed studies in the future to confirm their findings.
Toxicity is generally low for guaifenesin. Large doses have been associated with nausea and vomiting. All medications can have side effects, and adverse effects were seen in the study. The most common were tiredness, headache, dizziness, and a lingering bad aftertaste. The dose was generally well tolerated.
It was disclosed that the study was sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare, and the authors were employed by GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare at the time of the study.
Information Resource For Guaifenesin, used in the study where the common cold medicine helps neck pain, upper back and shoulder pain.