Pains that May Gain from Creatine

Fibromyalgia patients may see improved muscle function with creatine supplements

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Creatine supplements are reported to have several beneficial effects. Some of these claims, such as the ability to improve muscle performance, may have scientific evidence to back them up.

According to a new study, patients with fibromyalgia — a condition that causes body aches and muscle abnormalities — may benefit from creatine supplements. The study showed that taking creatine supplements may improve lower and upper body muscle function in these patients.

The study authors recommend future research be done to explore the effects of creatine in combination with exercise to treat fibromyalgia.

"Talk to your doctor before you take dietary supplements."

This study was conducted by Bruno Gualano, PhD, from the University of Sao Paulo in Sao Paulo, Brazil, along with colleagues.

The aim of the study was to examine the safety and effectiveness of creatine supplements in fibromyalgia patients.

Fibromyalgia is a condition characterized by generalized pain and loss of function in the body’s muscles. The disease is currently treated with pain medication and antidepressants along with exercise, massage and behavioral modifications. But there is currently no completely effective treatment for the condition.

The researchers randomly assigned 28 female patients to two groups. The treatment group received 20 grams of creatine monohydrate, a form of creatine, for five days. The second group received the same amount of sugar as a placebo.

A placebo is a treatment that has no medicinal effects and is used for comparison purposes.

The researchers evaluated muscle function, normal brain functioning, quality of sleep, quality of life, kidney function and side effects before the study began and then again after 16 weeks. They also measured the level of creatine phosphate, the active form of creatine, in the muscle.

Creatine phosphate, a substance that is stored in muscles, can serve as a rapid energy source for the body.

After 16 weeks, the group treated with creatine supplements had higher muscle phosphoryl creatine content than they did at the beginning of the study (80.3 percent increase). In comparison, the placebo group had a 2.7 percent decrease in muscle phosphoryl creatine.

The creatine group also had greater muscle strength in leg exercises (9.8 percent increase) and chest press exercises (1.2 percent increase) than they did at the beginning of the study, compared to the placebo group who had a 0.5 percent muscle strength reduction in leg exercises and 7.2 percent muscle strength reduction in chest press exercises.

Isometric strength improvement was significantly greater in the creatine group (6.4 percent increase) than the placebo group (3.2 percent decrease). Isometric exercises improve strength in a particular group of muscles by working them.

However, no general changes were seen in other aspects such as endurance, pain, brain function and quality of life. Food intake did not change and no side effects were reported.

Overall, the researchers showed that creatine supplements increase the content of creatine phosphate in muscles and also improved lower and upper body muscle function. They concluded that creatine supplements are useful in fibromyalgia.

The researchers suggested that in fibromyalgia, blood flow to muscles may be reduced, thus hampering their ability to store and use energy. Creatine supplements may help remedy this.

The researchers noted that this was a small study consisting of only 28 patients, so it may not be possible to generalize the results to the entire population. Further research needs to be done to study the effects of creatine supplementation on fibromyalgia.

Since exercise has been shown to improve fibromyalgia, the authors suggested future studies focus on the combination of creatine supplements and exercise.

One limitation to this study was that patients were on other medications throughout the study, so it was difficult to determine if the effects were due exclusively to creatine supplements.

According to sports dietitian and dailyRx Contributing Expert Eve Pearson, RD, CSSD, LD, “Over the years, creatine studies have continued to show such a wide variety of uses as well as safety and efficacy when used correctly.

“However, I would like to warn readers that the supplement industry is sketchy at best, so it's not safe to just go out and purchase creatine at any supplement store. Readers should be sure that the creatine they purchase has been third party tested for contamination with steroids and heavy metals, as well as that it truly is creatine monohydrate like the study suggested,” Pearson cautioned.

The results of this study were published in the September issue of Arthritis Care & Research.

No funding sources or conflicts of interest were mentioned in the study.

Review Date: 
September 5, 2013
Last Updated:
December 30, 2013