Page last updated: June 26, 2013
Alcohol, fibromyalgia, and quality of life
A study in the journal Arthritis Research & Therapy found that low and moderate drinkers of alcohol reported lower severity of symptoms of fibromyalgia than teetotallers, but too much alcohol reversed this effect. The chronic pain of fibromyalgia is thought to affect one in 20 people worldwide but there is no known cause or cure. It often goes hand in hand with fatigue and sleep problems, headaches, depression and irritable bowel and bladder problems. Treatment is based around pain management and lifestyle changes.

Researchers from the Mayo clinic in the US and the University of Michigan surveyed patients with fibromyalgia to examine the association between alcohol and their severity of symptoms and quality of life.

Low and moderate drinkers had better scores for physical function, ability to work, the number of work days missed, fatigue and pain, than people who abstained. Moderate drinkers who had between three and seven standard drinks (14g in the US) a week seemed to have less pain than low or heavy drinkers. Similar results were seen for the quality of life scale including social functioning, vitality and general health.

Dr Terry Oh, who led this study said, “Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter, is low in the brain in fibromyalgia, which may go some way to  explain why the nervous system reaction to pain is amplified. Alcohol binds to the GABA receptor in the central nervous system, which in turn may turn down pain transmission. However the effects of alcohol may also be due to improved mood, socialisation and tension, and while moderate drinkers have fewer symptoms there are still many questions about how this happens.”

Source: Association between alcohol consumption and symptom severity and quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia. Chul H Kim, Ann Vincent, Daniel J Clauw, Connie A Luedtke, Jeffrey M Thompson, Terry D Schneekloth and Terry H Oh. Arthritis Research & Therapy 2013, 15:R42 doi:10
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