More than half of all adults in the United States have at least one alcoholic drink per week. And while there’s nothing wrong with the occasional drink to help unwind or let loose, there can be consequences that have nothing to do with a hangover or increased risk of liver damage. For many people suffering from joint pain, their symptoms can be directly traced to the consumption of alcohol. But how can alcohol cause joint pain when people have been drinking it for thousands of years? Keep reading to learn about alcohol-related inflammation, joint pain, and more! 

Some symptoms of joint pain can be traced to the consumption of alcohol.

The Effects of Alcohol on Inflammation

Everyone knows that alcohol works as a depressant when it enters the bloodstream, influencing the functions of your body. However, it also depletes your body of water and nutrients, which in turn increases inflammation. That exacerbated inflammation in the body can be directly linked to joint pain. 

alcohol and pain relief

Misconceptions About Alcohol & Pain Relief 

Before answering the question on can alcohol cause joint pain, it is important to note that people have used alcohol as a form of pain relief for thousands of years, and it has proven to be effective in reducing pain in both humans and animals by depressing the central nervous system. But despite this, experts do not recommend the practice as it can increase the risk for various other health issues. People with chronic pain should be particularly wary of using alcohol as a form of pain relief because excessive intake can lead to addiction.   

Other Risks of Alcohol as a Pain Reliever: 

  • Mixing alcohol and medications 
    • If you are trying to manage extreme and/or chronic pain without overdoing it on the alcohol, the odds are that you will try to supplement drinking alcohol with over-the-counter or prescription pain medication. But mixing certain medications with alcohol can cause serious health issues like liver failure or gastric bleeding. 
  • Exceeding moderate drinking guidelines
    • Most people don’t feel much in the way of pain relief with alcohol until they drink doses exceeding the recommendations for moderate daily intake. And because you’ll eventually develop a tolerance to alcohol, you may feel the need to increase your intake to achieve the same results. This might lead to addiction, alcohol poisoning, or even increased pain.
Mixing alcohol and medication may have negative consequences.

Pre-Existing Joint Conditions Worsened by Alcohol

Alcohol consumption can also worsen the symptoms of someone with a pre-existing condition that causes joint pain. Here are a few illnesses and diseases that have been known to cause joint pain, swelling, and inflammation: 

  • Autoimmune diseases (Celiac disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis)
    • Autoimmune diseases like lupus, celiac disease, and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) cause your immune system to turn on itself and attack healthy tissue. Because alcohol consumption can negatively impact your immune system, it can worsen these conditions and consequently increase symptom severity.
  • Gout 
    • Gout is known to be caused by foods and drinks that are high in purines. This includes certain kinds of seafood, red meats, sugar-sweetened foods, and alcoholic beverages. Beers and distilled liquors are particularly associated with increased gout attacks.
  • Fibromyalgia 
    • Although fibromyalgia has no definite identified cause, research shows that alcohol users are more likely to experience worsened symptoms.
  • Osteoarthritis (inflammatory arthritis
    • Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, this type of arthritis is not an autoimmune disease; this common form of arthritis is actually a degenerative joint disorder that occurs as a result of a breakdown of cartilage in the body. Inflammation can potentially worsen arthritis pain. 
Drinking alcohol can cause serious problems in those with arthritis.

Can Alcohol Make Arthritis Worse? 

There are contrasting views about whether or not someone with arthritis should consume alcohol and to what degree. Some research suggests that the occasional glass of wine or pint of beer can actually help prevent the development of arthritis with their anti-inflammatory effects. However, once you already have arthritis, drinking alcohol has more downsides than benefits. Even small amounts of alcohol can cause serious problems. If you have concerns, speak to your doctor to discern whether or not it’s safe for you to consume alcohol. 

How Much Alcohol Consumption is Safe for People with Joint Pain?

There’s no definite amount of recommended alcohol consumption if you suffer from joint pain. There are various elements to take into consideration, including the cause of your joint pain and how your body responds when you do have a drink. Inform your doctor of any reactions or notable symptoms so that they can determine the best course of action for you. 

It is important to update your healthcare provider on any pain you experience.

When to See a Doctor for Joint Pain?

For many, joint pain is simply a part of life. Anyone from healthy, active children and adults to the elderly can experience this type of discomfort. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore joint inflammation symptoms when they present themselves. If you are newly experiencing joint pain, or if your pain has begun to get worse, you should see a doctor to help get to the bottom of the issue. 

Visit Village Emergency Centers

When it comes to alcohol consumption, it’s important that you be very careful about your intake and avoid self-medicating without the advice of a medical expert. At Village Emergency Centers, a qualified team of board-certified emergency doctors can help answer any questions you may have about joint pain and more. From alcohol poisoning and arthritis to injuries and women’s healthcare, our team can give you the support you need. Contact us today to learn more about how can alcohol cause joint pain or to find a location near you!