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Does Moderate Drinking Help with Chronic Pain?

Initial Research on Alcohol Consumption and Chronic Pain Suggests Beneficial Association (no change)

Findings from a recent study suggest that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with less pain in patients with chronic pain and fibromyalgia, although fibromyalgia patients reported less benefit. Patients with chronic pain who were moderate drinkers also reported less anxiety, depression, and pain catastrophizing, as well as better physical function and less difficulty with completion of daily activities. The work builds on prior research findings that low alcohol consumption can reduce pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and lessen disability in patients with low back pain. Moderate consumption was defined as 1 drink per day for women and 2 per day for men. The results were reported in the journal Pain Medicine.

Researchers surveyed 2,583 patients with chronic pain presenting at a University of Michigan pain clinic. 85% of respondents self-reported as moderate drinkers. The authors wrote that, “Our hypothesis that chronic pain patients who drink moderately would report less pain and symptom severity compared with nondrinkers was supported. These data suggest that the effects of moderate alcohol consumption on [fibromyalgia] symptoms has important clinical implications for chronic pain patients in general.” It was also noted, however, that current guidelines on moderate drinking, as established by the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, are derived from heart benefits, not pain effect, and that more research would be needed to establish an optimal consumption level for pain reduction.

Read a news story about the findings.

The journal abstract may be read here.

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