Those experiencing wide-spread pain, such as caused by Fibromyalgia, have a new friend.

163px-drinking-beer-clip-art-351069In a study of 2239 people with chronic widespread pain in the UK, those participants who drank a moderate amount of alcohol had less disability than those who did not drink- by a significant margin of 67%. So, what defined a moderate amount of alcohol? 1-2 drinks per day, such as 1 pint of beer, one small glass of wine or 1 shot of liquor. And, no, if a little is good, a little more is not better.

Doesn’t this press release sound like something too good to be true? Well, maybe.

The study results, published in Arthritis Care & Research, Moderate Alcohol consumption is associated with lower risk (and severity) of chronic widespread pain: Results from a UK population-based study, was initially proposed to determine if alcohol consumption was associated with a likelihood that alcohol would increase the level of disability. To the surprise of the researchers, the research found just the opposite—that moderate intake of alcohol actually decreased the disability. There are a number of flaws with the study, including confounding factors that might impact the results of the study, such as age, weight, gender, cigarette smoking, and level of isolation.

This is an example of how the media can give misleading or misunderstood information. The Press release does not include any of the weaknesses of the study but just focuses on the fun and media worthy aspects of the study.

So, should a person with widespread pain disorders, such as fibromyalgia, add a couple of drinks a day to their dietary intake? I think we need to take this information slowly and realize in moderation, some people may find alcohol in very moderate amounts can help decrease the disability of chronic pain, but for others, the risks of drinking alcohol may outweigh any benefit that might occur.

As always, when health information is splashed across the media, we need to realize that the whole story may not be sexy or fun or even interesting and so when information is the focus of the media release may not be the best information to make decisions about our health.

MugaGlassofredwine_previewSo, if you enjoy a drink in moderation, nothing indicates it will increase your pain. And, if you don’t choose to drink alcohol, nothing yet suggests that you should change your practices or your choices.


Citation: Macfarlane, Gary J. & Beasley, Marcus. “Moderate Alcohol Consumption is Associated with Lower Risk (and Severity) of Chronic Widespread Pain: Results from a UK Population-based Study,” Arthritis Care & Research, American College of Rheumatology at Wiley Online Library.

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