Drinking With Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia patients who have a few drinks per week report better quality of life

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) To drink or not to drink, it’s a common question for lots of people with health problems. For fibromyalgia patients, a little alcohol may help take the edge off.

A recent study questioned a group of fibromyalgia patients about how many alcoholic drinks they had per week and their quality of life.

The results of the study showed that patients who had one to seven drinks per week reported better quality of life than patients who did not drink or were heavy drinkers.

The authors were not sure how having a few drinks per week was related to quality of life and recommended further study to find the answer.

"Talk to your doctor about safe drinking."

Chul H. Kim, MD, from the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at Kyungpook National University Hospital in Korea, worked with a team of fellow scientists to investigate how alcohol effects people with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a long-term condition in which patients experience widespread pain, tenderness and a lower level of pain tolerance. According to the authors, patients often report fatigue, headache, irritable bowel and bladder problems and depression. The cause of fibromyalgia has not been pinned down by the medical community.

For the study, the researchers asked 946 fibromyalgia patients about their drinking habits and how drinking impacted their quality of life between 2001 and 2004.

Low drinking was considered three drinks or less per week, moderate drinking was measured as four to seven drinks per week and heavy drinking was considered seven drinks or more per week.

Only 42 percent of the patients drank alcohol. While 36 percent reported low drinking and 3 percent reported moderate drinking, 3 percent said they were heavy drinkers.

Drinkers had higher education, lower body mass index, were employed most of the time and used opioids less than non-drinkers.

Moderate drinkers reported lower pain levels than low and heavy drinkers.

Binge drinking heavy drinkers in this study reported a 20 percent lower quality of life – both physically and mentally – than the non-binge drinking heavy drinkers. Binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks in one sitting for women and five or more drinks in one sitting for men.

As only 3 percent of participants reported heavy drinking, the results found in the heavy drinking group may not apply to other heavy drinkers with fibromyalgia.

“Our study demonstrates that low and moderate alcohol consumption was associated with lower fibromyalgia symptoms and better quality of life compared to no alcohol consumption,” concluded the authors.

The authors added that the reasons for this better quality of life in the low and moderate drinkers were unclear.

The researchers recommended further studies to investigate whether alcohol works as a pain reliever for people with fibromyalgia.

“[W]e do not recommend that patients with fibromyalgia start or increase drinking for their symptoms,” said the authors. 

Type of alcohol (beer, wine or spirits) was not taken into account for this study.

This study was published in March in Arthritis Research & Therapy.

The National Institutes of Health provided funding for this project. No conflicts of interest were reported. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 14, 2013
Last Updated:
March 16, 2013