Primary Care Physician
Dr. Orrange received her BA in Biology at the University of California, San Diego, and a Masters Degree in Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health. She received her MD from the USC Keck School of…
Alcohol Helps Fibromyalgia Symptoms
Posted in Fibromyalgia by Dr. Sharon Orrange on Mar 20, 2013
Patients with fibromyalgia who drink low or moderate amounts of alcohol have less severe symptoms than nondrinkers, according to a recent study.

Low and moderate alcohol consumption was associated with lower fibromyalgia symptoms and better quality of life compared to no alcohol consumption.

Here is what they did in this study. The patients were divided into four categories: no alcohol, low (< 3 drinks/week), moderate (< 3 to 7 drinks/week), and heavy (> 7 drinks/week) alcohol use. Fibro symptoms and quality of life were then examined for each of these groups.

After adjusting for age, employment status, education level, weight, and opioid use the researchers found significant group differences in the number of tender points, physical function, work missed, job ability, and pain. Moderate drinkers had overall lower fibromyalgia-related symptoms, and higher quality of life scores than the other groups. Funny, but also obvious, is that this beneficial effect was not observed in heavy drinkers.

So why is this? The cool way that alcohol may help fibro symptoms is that alcohol raises GABA levels. GABA is a neurotransmitter, which is low in the brains of fibromyalgia patients, which may in part explain why the nervous system reaction to pain is abnormal in fibro patients. Alcohol binds to the GABA receptor in the central nervous system, which in turn may turn down pain transmission.

So does alcohol improve fibro symptoms because of GABA or does it work by improving mood, socialization, and tension? What do you think?

- Dr. O


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CONDITIONS AND COMMUNITIES: Fibromyalgia  •  Chronic Pain
TAGS: Symptoms  •  Therapies

TOTAL COMMENTS: 12 - View All Comments »

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I completely agree with this, I was wondering for years why I never had hung overs and felt extremely well after a night of drinking!! This was before I was diagnosed, I knew that it had to be something in the alcohol that made the neurotransmitters work better. I am not a heavy drinker, but find that when I have two captain and coke vs nothing at night, I feel like heaven the next day. I do not want to have a substance abuse, so I don't drink much. But this makes me want to! LOL!!! :)
By LizabethJ  Jun 28, 2013
I am not sure that I agree with this. When I have any amount of alcohol, a little bit or a lot, I twitch when I am trying to sleep. When I wake up the next day, I am in so much pain, I cannot move.
By mhscheeto118  May 21, 2013
Wonder if it was liquor or beer? I cannot drink beer or wine. I must be allergic to something in it, however, I am OK with hard liquor. Maybe I need to get my shine on, lol!
By fibrosucks  May 16, 2013
I know that I feel better when I have a couple of drinks at night. It helps my pain more than the narcotics they give me. I rather have a drink than take a pain pill. Of course I do not take them together. I have Lupus, RA and osteoporosis. I fell backwards last week and broke my S3. I am so tired of not having a normal life.
By halfpint6844  Apr 27, 2013
GREAT! Just when I it my 25 year anniversary of sobriety, you tell me this. Just one more drug I can't take because of side effects. Gee, thanks.
By marsharebel  Mar 31, 2013
I do think alcohol works somewhat. But I have a couple questions. Which alcohols work the best? Most of time when I drink while having a flare up, I actually have a lot of swelling the next day especially in hands. I have noticed dark red wines seem to help, but still have some foggy feelings next day. Plus wondering how much to drink, I do take a couple of meds, and am trying small dose of Cymbalta, 20mg, again. But am concerned about mixing with my meds. Is it ok to have a couple glasses of red wine, and still be able to take the Cymbalta? worried about affects it would have on my body, internally.
By Monica65  Mar 26, 2013
My doctor said I was self-medicating for pain using Alcohol after a back injury in 1991. As a result of my use of alcohol, I became an alcoholic and adapted the same problems every addict faces.
I believe 'moderate' drinking is as dangerous as drinking anything period.
I am surprised you posted this on a support site with such a large percentage of people with problems due to alcohol.
By MrEthereal  Mar 25, 2013
I would just like to know who funded this study. Most credible studies will inform the reader who funded the study and without that it loses credibility quickly.
By sweatingbullets  Mar 25, 2013
I may look up the specifics of this study, because as it is written here, it is unclear as to whether the researchers divided the participants into groups and then told them how much to drink (and for how long) OR divided the participants into groups based on their drinking behavior, already. If they were divided into groups based on their current drinking behavior, then it would be easy to also assume that the amount they were drinking correlated with how they already felt physically. In other words, someone who had lower symptoms of pain might feel well enough to drink alcohol (or go out and socialize).
By Roses25  Mar 24, 2013
Ok so it is better to ruin ones liver than to have pain? I had fibro for 17 years and PMR for 2, one can learn to live with pain, not in pain.
I use meditation and self hypnosis. Can not take pain medications, Also it is important to keep busy and for people that have fibro and mental/emotional issues care of specialist is needed.
By deraming  Mar 23, 2013
@MeganElaine - Dr. Orrange actually addresses those things in this article. Regarding why they drank, it was because they had been selected to be a part of one of the four groups. It was not an after the fact study. Also, at no point does she say that this is definitely why it helps. She's just putting it out there, not validating it.
By aprilraven  Mar 23, 2013
A doctor should not show a study based on correlation and then call it causation. There could by any myriad of possibilities explaining the correlation, the most obvious of which being that those who drank did so only because they felt well enough in the first place. Additionally, those on a high level of opioid pain meds are not supposed to consume alcohol, further shifting the results of the study.
By MeganElaine  Mar 21, 2013
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