Can Alcohol Affect Joints? The Relation Between Alcohol And Joint Pain

Can Alcohol Affect Joints? The Relation Between Alcohol And Joint Pain

Joint pain is among the top 10 most common health problems these days. These are so many factors that can cause this condition, and even more factors that are related to it.

But is drinking among them? Can alcohol affect joints? Is there any relation between alcohol and joint pain?

There are many theories in the medical world, but no one can give a certain answer whether alcohol is related to joint pain or not. In the following lines, I want to analyze the pros and the cons of alcohol consumption and joint pain, hoping to find a clear answer.

So does alcohol have something to do with joint pain? Let’s take a look at the good facts first.





1. Alcohol Doesn’t Directly Affect The Joints

Can Alcohol Affect Joints? The Relation Between Alcohol And Joint PainThere are many people who wonder about the consequences of alcohol consumption on joints. Well, let me give you a clear answer.

If you are a healthy person, alcohol can’t affect your joints alone. It can’t produce more than a temporary pain. That pain is a cause of dehydration, and it should normally pass after a few hours. But alcohol can’t lead to any type of joint disease alone.

Why? Because it doesn’t affect them directly, as it affects the liver, the stomach or any other internal organs.

Yes, it can aggravate an eventual arthritis, but if you don’t suffer from this condition, alcohol can’t cause it alone. Auto-immune forms of arthritis can be genetic, and osteoarthritis doesn’t have anything to do with how much alcohol you drank throughout your life.

So if you are a healthy person, you don’t have to worry from this point of view. Alcohol won’t affect your joints on its own.


2. Alcohol Can Reduce The Risk Of RA

According to a study conducted in 2015, a moderate consumption of alcohol could diminish the risk of getting rheumatoid arthritis. The study was made only on women, who consumed alcohol 2-4 times a week, for almost 30 years.

Surprisingly, the women who consumed alcohol turned out to have much lower chances of contacting the auto-immune disease, compared to the ones who didn’t consume alcohol at all. Though the difference in percents wasn’t huge, there was still a significantly lower risk for the first category.

However, there wasn’t any study on men so far, so things are not so certain. But overall speaking, alcohol seems to help healthy women stay away from rheumatoid arthritis.


3. Alcohol Does Relieve The Pain

Surprisingly or not, alcohol isn’t the biggest enemy of pain. In fact, it was proved that moderate quantities of alcohol can help relieve several types of pain, including joint pain.

But most of us already knew this. Haven’t you ever heard that doctors from past centuries used alcohol as an anesthesic, whenever they had to perform surgeries or painful procedures? The patient was forced to drink big quantities of alcohol and then was falling asleep, so the doctor could do his job. You surely saw a movie with this kind of scenes.¬†

Though we progressed a lot since those days, there are still people that use alcohol as a pain reliever. Now the question is – Is it a good habit? Not at all. Does it manage to relieve the pain for a while? Yes it does.

So either we like it or not, alcohol has relieving proprieties even for joint pain, that can be among the most severe ones.

The bad news is that you usually need high quantities to feel any relief, so this takes us to the downsides of alcohol consumption for joint pain.

Can Alcohol Affect Joints? The Relation Between Alcohol And Joint Pain




1. Alcohol Dehydrates The Body, Joints Included

Can Alcohol Affect Joints? The Relation Between Alcohol And Joint PainMany young people complain that drinking alcohol makes them have terrible joint pain and stiffness a few hours after. Though there wasn’t any studied conducted on this subject, the explanation is simple.

Alcohol dehydrates the body, and the ligaments are among the first structures where that dehydration appears. Ligaments are made of water in a very high percent, so every small loss of water affects them directly.

Once these ligaments dry out, they can’t provide the barrier between the joints and the bones anymore.

The consequence is that the joints come into direct contact with the bones, that are very harsh structures. For this reason, they get inflamed and pain appears soon.

If the person is healthy, the ligaments normally recover in a few hours and the pain goes away by itself. However, if you consume high quantities alcohol daily or even weekly, you may end up one day with a joint pain that doesn’t go away anymore.


2. Alcohol Worsens Gout Attacks

You may have heard that any type of alcohol is forbidden in gout, because it can cause serious problems.

The cause of gout is the build-up of uric acid crystal in the joints. The most common joints affected by this condition are inside toes and rarely inside hands. What has alcohol to do with this? Well, alcoholic drinks usually contain a high quantity of some substances called purines.

What our body does is that it transforms this purines into uric acid, in order to eliminate them easier. However, if this uric acid comes in high quantities and your kidneys can’t keep up with it, it’s not eliminated. Instead, it ends up in your joints, where it forms crystals. And that’s how gout appears.

For this reason, alcohol is absolutely forbidden in gout. Not only that it can make gout attacks appear often, but it can also aggravate the pain.


3. Alcohol Will Interfere With Medication

In most treatments that you followed throughout your life, you were probably told that alcohol was a clear “no”. Well, if you suffer from arthritis or any other condition related to joints, alcohol remains an even bigger “no”.

The reason is simple. Joint pain is caused by the inflammation of the joints, so anti-inflammatory drugs make the best treatment. Not everyone knows, but these drugs lead to a high risk of stomach bleeding and gastric ulcer, because of their mechanism.

If we add the risks alcohol has on the stomach, there are very high chances that you end up with severe gastro-intestinal problems. Is it really worth the risk? Not even close.

Can Alcohol Affect Joints? The Relation Between Alcohol And Joint Pain


4. Alcohol Leads To Complications Of Arthritis

Though it can’t cause arthritis alone, alcohol consumption can worsen many symptoms of arthritis. And here I’m not talking just about the pain.

In severe forms of rheumatoid  or psoriatic arthritis, one of the most common options for treatment is methotrexate. This is basically a substance used to treat cancers. For this reason, it is a very toxic medicine, so you need to be very careful about your diet.

This is why, if you combine the toxicity of methotrexate with the toxicity of alcohol, liver damage is almost certain.

Acetaminophen is another anti-inflammatory drug that is commonly prescribed in rA. Combined with alcohol, it can also affect your liver in a few months.



So Can Alcohol Affect Joints? Is It A Myth Or A Reality?

There are many different beliefs and opinions, but I will tell you what I think, based on the facts I mentioned above.

Alcohol doesn’t affect joints itself, but it can aggravate an existing joint condition.

For healthy people, alcohol has other risks that aren’t related to joints. So it is not possible that drinking big quantities of alcohol can cause you rheumatoid arthritis or any other similar problem.

But for people suffering of any type of arthritis or other joint condition, alcohol does have a bad effect. So stay away from it as much as you can.

Therefore, the alcohol and joint pain story isn’t really a myth, but it’s not a reality either. Though they do have a connection sometimes, in most cases they are very far from each other.


Has alcohol ever produced you joint pain, even for a while? Or have you experienced a worsening of your arthritis symptoms? Let me know your answer in a comment and I will reach out to you with advice.

Heather Pharm.D.

Heather Tracy Foley is a Pharmacy graduate, Blogger and Author with a vast experience in health sciences. She has a particular interest in joint pain and rheumatology and spent several years studying health problems. You can find her on Pinterest or via email.

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