As a member of the benzodiazepine family of anti-anxiety medications, diazepam is often prescribed for panic and anxiety disorders, as well as seizures and muscle spasms. This drug is not considered a painkiller in the traditional sense, but taking diazepam for pain can be quite effective, if the pain arises from certain causes. Most commonly, diazepam can relieve aches and soreness resulting from muscle spasms in the back.
The extent to which doctors prescribe diazepam for treating pain usually varies by country. National Health Services (NHS) of the United Kingdom recommends this medication in relatively short treatment periods for back pain associated with muscle spasms. In the United States, some doctors have the attitude that this drug should not be given to individuals in pain. Other American doctors may occasionally use it instead of other muscle relaxers to treat back pain or pain from restless leg syndrome (RLS). The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved diazepam for either of these uses, however.
Studies indicate that this drug can change some of the perceptions surrounding pain, although it does not alter the actual perception of pain itself. One study used a painful tourniquet to test how diazepam altered these perceptions. Subjects that had taken this drug could wear the tourniquet for a longer period of time, and had less anxiety in regard to the task. Other types of pain, such as pain related to heat, and the ability to judge an experience as painful were not affected by this drug. These researchers concluded that taking diazepam for pain might lower the emotional component of pain, but not the sensory experience of it.
Certain other studies shows diazepam for pain as being even more effective, particularly when combined with the over-the-counter pain reliever ibuprofen. Research involving chronic pain in the facial muscles found that this combination was the more effective at pain reduction than either compound on their own. This facial pain and back muscle spasm pain do not involve inflammation, which is why ibuprofen did not achieve any relief. Measures of genetic expression and endorphin activity, which were an attempt on the part of the researchers to find a mechanism by which this substance was successful in alleviating pain did not reap any results; diazepam for pain is effective in some cases.