By Joshua Tucker
Where to start on the topic of Statins and Muscle Pain?
Statins like Lipitor are officially 'relatively harmless with few side effects'. Great!
However, it is thought that as many as 25% of statin users who exercise may experience muscle fatigue, weakness, aches, and cramping due to statin therapy -AND- potentially dismissed by the patient and physician.
25% of over 100 million users of statins....is 25 million plus people with statin myopathy and myalgia and related symptoms!
If you take Statins like Lipitor and have muscle pain, muscle ache, muscle twitches and/or cramping....don't let your doctors tell you that it has nothing to do with the Statins you're taking.
There were somewhere between 11 million and 30 million users of statins in 2004. There were 200 million prescriptions written for cholesterol drugs in 2007. The number has grown as the medical industry has found other uses for statins besides simply lowering cholesterol, continued to drop the recommended 'safe' cholestoral level (creating millions of new candidates to be prescribed the medicine), and continues to spend millions on advertising.
But let's just work with the number of 20 million (although that's 1-10+ million to low).
Since -everybody- exercises to some degree or other, even if it's just walking around the house, and holding oneself upright at work, that means approximately 5 million people suffer from the muscle pain side effects of statins.
And approximately 0.1% of statin users develop Rhabdomyolysis, which is a life threatening condition caused by toxicity due to massive muscle cell death (this starts with the experience of muscle pain, fatigue, and weakness, and progresses).
Officially classified as rare because it's a tenth of one percent, that still equals at least 20,000 people that develop life threatening Rhabdomolosis directly due to Statin side effects.
5 million people on Statins and muscle pain, fatigue, and weakness the result.
20,000 people fighting for their lives in the ER and ICU.
And only a 1% success rate at actually preventing heart attacks. Not bad for the best selling prescription drug in America (Lipitor until it's patent expired in 2011).
Statins are a class of pharmaceutical drugs originally used to lower cholesterol, and now expanded to treat other conditions like ventricular arrythmias, peripheral arterial disease, idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy, cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, and depression.
Examples of statins drugs are:
And there are many many others.
Statins are used to lower cholesterol, prevent plaque build up and prevent atherosclerosis, and depending on whose research you look at, they are or are not effective at preventing heart disease related deaths even when they do reduce cholesterol levels.
Statins also can cause significant side effects, and for the most part, have not been adequately studied for safety in all their uses.
There is also the question of effectiveness. Numbers-wise, Statins will prevent only 1 heart attack out of every 50-250 people taking the drug. Statistics are funny that way, the numbers all depend on who you talk to.
Here is a great article on this aspect. Statin effectiveness (opens in new window)
And another article reporting research showing Statins lower cholesterol but provide no actual benefit to persons over age 65, and no benefit at all to women. Businessweek.com article (opens in new window)
"What are Statins?" is a great question.
"Do they work, and are they worth the risk, and are there effective alternatives?" are even better questions.
The muscle pain statin drugs cause is directly related to the way statin drugs work.
Although statins are lipid-lowering drugs that block cholesterol biosynthesis, but also exert immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, anti-angiogenic and anti-proliferative functions (this means that they negative effect in the body by creating a cytotoxic effect).
The usual, official answer to 'how do statins work' is that statins block the enzyme in the liver that is responsible for making cholesterol.
And they are pretty effective at lowering cholesterol. But that's not the whole story. Lots of people, including my father, have very low, controlled cholesterol levels but still have heart issues and ongoing plaque build up. And muscle pain and other statin side effects and symptoms. And still take the drug on their doctor's recommendation.
Statins block the liver enzyme that produces cholesterol.
DANGER: Statins also interacts with CoQ10 and mitochondria in a way that leads to muscle aptosis (muscle cell death, get enough and you get rhabdomyolysis.)
Technically 'myalgia' is muscle ache and soreness, low level pain that comes and goes.
'Myopathy' is stronger, even severe, and constant muscle pain.
Muscle pain side effects of Statin drugs generally get lumped together. Mypopathy, myalgia, ache, pain, fatigue, weakness all get grouped together.
Basically, if you take Statins muscle pain is a likely outcome. As I said, experts in the field say 25% of statin users have statin drug side effects. And that means there is a much higher number when one considers all the unreported cases.
Regardless of what you call it, your muscle pain statin side effects are going to fall into a range of from barely noticeable to severe and disabling.
My father, for instance, has a constant nagging muscle ache, fatigue, some dizzyness, and it seems a little bit of memory loss.
Some people with Statin side effects just have minor, occasional ache. Some people end up in the ER and ICU trying to survive Rhabdomyolosis.
As this study says, Tendon injury from Statins happens but is rare. Tendinous disorders attributed to statins: a study on ninety-six spontaneous reports in the period 1990-2005 and review of the literature. (opens in new window)
Statins and muscle pain go hand in hand. It's no accident, it's cause and effect.
Some of the normal symptoms of all Tendonitis is muscle pain and ache.
Just like it's important to understand HOW you get Tendonitis and WHY it won't just go away with rest and time, it's beneficial to understand HOW Statins work and WHY they are causing muscle ache and pain and even worse effects on the body.
See: What Is Tendonitis?
Keep reading to see how and why Statins cause muscle pain.
Statins and Muscle Pain
Statins interact with the chemistry of the body in such a way that:
1. Inhibits the production of CoQ10, which is essential for the creation of ATP (energy a cell uses).
2. Lack of ATP starves mitochondria.
3. Mitochondria regulate Aptosis (death of a cell without damage to surrounding tissue).
Muscle fatigue and weakness is caused by the disruption of CoQ10 production and resulting lack of ATP production.
Muscle pain, myalgia, and myopathy are due to cell death due to Aptosis.
Rhapdomyolosis is due do high blood toxicity due to massive muscle cell dyoff due to aptosis.
Also, it has been shown that statins can induce apoptosis in a variety of cell types, such as rheumatoid synovial cells, pericytes, smooth muscle cells, cardiac myocytes, and several types of cancer cells.
This explains why side effects of statin drugs are not just limited to muscle pain.
For a technical research article on the above topics, visit this ajpcell.physiology.org article. (opens in a new window)
And here's another article worth reading. MedicineNet.com article (opens in a new window)
Go to Kerri's site for more indepth information on Statin Side Effects.
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