Can alcohol consumption relieves fibromyalgia symptoms?

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It is well-known that alcohol ingestion has a number of potential damaging effects to mental and physical health; though, in minor to moderate volumes, alcohol ingestion might have some beneficial effects for some people. There are various research studies that have examined the link between alcohol consumption and chronic pain. Many of these studies have focused on severe forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis; however, there are studies that have observed the prevalence of alcohol consumption and possible side effects of alcohol use in individuals with fibromyalgia.

A latest study published in the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy looked at the link between complaints of agony in individuals with fibromyalgia and their intake of alcohol. Over five-hundred contributors were involved in the study. The participants were classified according to their alcohol consumption, such that they were categorized into four groups:

  • Not any alcohol ingestion: fifty-eight percentage of the sample
  • Low alcohol ingestion (3 or less alcoholic drinks each week : thirty-six percentage of the sample)
  • Moderate alcohol ingestion (between 3 and 7 alcoholic drinks each week): three percentage of the sample
  • Heavy alcohol ingestion (more than 7 alcoholic drinks each week): three percentage of the sample

Using various different processes of the functioning of participants, the researchers found that the low to moderate alcohol consumption groups stated having a better quality of life and lesser general pain scores than the heavy drinkers and the nondrinkers. The researchers hypothesized that maybe the effects of low to moderate alcohol usage on the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) may have some relaxing effects for these patients. However, due to the enormously imbalanced number of participants in each of the groups and failing to control for other significant effects, such as the link between very low and moderate alcohol usage and being more publicly active, this discovery was somewhat doubtful.

Study Highlights

In spite of the well-known damaging effects of alcohol, results of previous studies suggest that alcohol may possibly have positive effects on chronic pain and rheumatoid arthritis. Thus far, however, no studies have assessed alcohol consumption in patients with fibromyalgia. The objective of this study by Kim and coworkers was to assess the association between alcohol consumption and fibromyalgia symptom severity and quality of life (QOL).

The investigators examined information from nine-hundred-forty-six patients on self-reported alcohol ingestion.

Level of alcohol ingestion in the applicants was defined as none, low (≤ three drinks per week), moderate (> 3 to 7 drinks per week), or heavy (> 77drinks per week).

Out of nine-hundred-forty-six participants, fifty-eight percent didn’t drink alcohol; thirty-six percent had low consumption; three percent had moderate consumption; and three percent had heavy consumption.

The examiners used univariate assessment to recognize potential confounders, examination of covariance to modify for these confounders, and Tukey HSD pairwise evaluations to define reforms among groups.

Compared with nondrinkers, drinkers had an advanced educational level (P equal to 0.009), lower BMI (P equal to 0.002), lower rate of unemployment (P less than 0.001), and lower amount of opioid usage (P equal to 0.002).

In addition, the study did not effectively evaluate depression and did not distinguish former drinkers from refrainers.

After alterations for these changes, pairwise assessment among the four groups revealed that low and moderate alcohol drinkers had lower severity of Fibromyalgia symptoms than nondrinkers, based on the FIQ.

The examiners do not recommend that patients with Fibromyalgia start or increase drinking for their symptoms.

Differences on the FIQ included the number of tender points (P equal to 0.01), FIQ complete score (P equal to 0.01), physical function (P less than 0.001), work lost (P equal to 0.005), job aptitude (P equal to 0.03), and ache (P equal to 0.001).

Among drinkers, moderate alcohol ingestion was linked with lower FIQ pain scores than low and heavy consumption and with a lower number of tender points than low consumption, even after modification for confounding covariates.

After changes, pairwise comparison among the four groups also revealed that low and moderate alcohol drinkers had improved physical QOL than nondrinkers, centered on the SF-36 subscales of physical functioning (P less than 0.001), pain index (P equal to 0.002), overall health insight (P equal to 0.02), public functioning (P equal to 0.02), and the physical component summary (P less than 0.001).

On the base of their outcomes, the study writers concluded that compared with no alcohol consumption, low and moderate alcohol consumption was linked with lower FM symptoms and better QOL; however, the writers identified that the causes were uncertain.

Limitations of this study comprise cross-sectional design; dependence on self-report for alcohol consumption; large opioid usage among nondrinkers, suggesting that they may have had worse symptoms; relatively low number of moderate and heavy drinkers; and limited generalizability.

In light of modern studies presenting that GABA levels are low in Fibromyalgia, and as alcohol is a GABA-agonist, they suggest that upcoming studies should decide whether alcohol might reduce pain and other Fibromyalgia symptoms.

Clinical Implications

In a cross-sectional study, low and moderate alcohol drinkers with fibromyalgia had lower rigorousness of symptoms than nondrinkers, even after changes for covariates. The examiners suggest upcoming studies to inspect whether alcohol could decrease pain and other fibromyalgia symptoms and sign, but they don’t vouch for that patients with fibromyalgia start or increase alcohol ingestion for their symptoms.

Low and Moderate alcohol drinkers with fibromyalgia also had better physical QOL than nondrinkers. Though the causes are tentative, likely mechanisms could contain the GABA-agonist effect of alcohol.


Modern research suggests that there may be a link with mild to moderate alcohol usage and reduced disability and concentrations of pain in patients who suffer from FM. The research is not causal, such that investigators are not claiming that drinking alcohol causes people with FM to function well or to have less pain, and this relationship is possibly affected by different number of dominant variables.

It’s not recommended that people who are analyzed with FM start drinking alcohol as an attempt to deal with the pain and anxiety of their illness. Though, people who are analyzed with FM and keep on to take part in their regular activities, as well as the public consumption of alcohol, may well be at less risk to suffer major disability and difficulties with discomfort and pain. Then again, these people may already have extensively less discomfort or are better accustomed to deal with these difficulties. REF

Dr. M. Rana, MD


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