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Fibromyalgia and Alcohol

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition that is typically manifested as widespread pain, impairment of daily living functions, sleep disturbance and lack of sleep, presence of typical tender points over the body etc. There are other symptoms such as non-restorative sleep and fatigue.

Alcohol consumption has both harmful and beneficial effects on health. While large amounts of alcohol consumption is associated with liver disease, obesity and heart disease, moderate drinking is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Alcohol use and abuse in chronic pain conditions

There are several studies that have explored alcohol use and abuse in chronic pain conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis etc. Some studies have also explored the prevalence of alcohol use and abuse among patients with fibromyalgia.

For example, one such study looked at the association between alcohol consumption and symptom severity as well as quality of life among fibromyalgia patients. The authors of this study had classified the fibromyalgia patients according to their alcohol consumption to none, low (≤3 number of drinks/week), moderate (>3 to 7 number of drinks/week), and heavy (>7 number of drinks/week).

The study revealed that 58% of the patients did not consume alcohol. Low alcohol consumption was seen in 36% patients and moderate and high consumption was seen in 3% of patients respectively.

This was irrespective of other factors that influence alcohol use for example educational status, socioeconomic status, body mass index, opioids and other drug abuse etc.

The study also showed that low alcohol drinkers had lower severity of fibromyalgia symptoms and better quality of life than non-drinkers. This was a result that intrigued the authors and they advised caution and more study before alcohol is recommended to fibromyalgia patients in low doses. Authors cite that the reasons for these results are unclear.1

Another study explored the hidden link between fibromyalgia and excessive alcohol intake. The study by Monroe et al. explored the fact that eating disorders as well as alcohol abuse is present among patients with fibromyalgia. Both these factors are also present in individuals who have been subjected to previous physical or sexual abuse.

The study also explored the fact that increased intake of alcohol induces energy metabolism, vitamin B1 abnormalities or thiamine deficiencies and oxidative damages that have also been seen among patients with fibromyalgia.

Reviewed by , BA Hons (Cantab)

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jul 31, 2013

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