Moderate Alcohol Consumption Could Help Reduce Fibromyalgia Pain, Insomnia, Study Shows

Moderate Alcohol Consumption Could Help Reduce Fibromyalgia Pain, Insomnia, Study Shows

Low to moderate alcohol consumption is associated with greater hippocampal volume, decreased intensity of clinical pain, and better sleep quality in fibromyalgia patients, new research shows.

The study, “Low-to-Moderate Alcohol Consumption is Associated With Hippocampal Volume in Fibromyalgia and Insomnia,” was published in Behavioral Sleep Medicine.

Fibromyalgia patients often report fatigue and sleep disruption. In fact, one study demonstrated that 75% of patients with fibromyalgia have symptoms of chronic insomnia. Fibromyalgia and chronic insomnia often occur together and are both associated with increased sensitivity to pain, which can be related back to the hippocampus as it is involved in pain stimuli.

Studies have demonstrated that the volume of the hippocampus is reduced in both fibromyalgia patients and chronic insomnia patients. However, no studies have shown the impact of the hippocampal structure in patients that have both chronic musculoskeletal pain and chronic insomnia.

Alcohol use is of great interest in this area because it conducts a number of interesting activities due to its extensive interactions with a variety of neurotransmitter systems such as inhibiting the GABA (gamma amino butyric acid) receptors and the NMDA (n-methyl d-aspartate) receptors.

Patients with fibromyalgia have high levels of excitatory amino acids that act on NMDA receptors, which is associated with hyperalgesia (increased sensitization to pain) and allodynia (a pain response from a stimulus that does not normally provoke pain).

Inhibiting GABA receptors has been shown to promote sleep and reduce anxiety. Therefore, researchers could hypothesize that alcohol use could help regulate fibromyalgia and insomnia symptoms through inhibition of NMDA and GABA receptors.

Researchers at the University of Florida investigated whether alcohol consumption in fibromyalgia patients both with and without chronic insomnia is associated with differences in the structure of the hippocampus by MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). They also evaluated the effect of alcohol on a number of pain and sleep-related measures.

Forty-one patients with fibromyalgia, of whom 19 had insomnia, were instructed to fill out a paper diary of various parameters related to this study, including sleep, pain, and alcohol, for 14 days. This was followed by a structural MRI to determine the volume of the hippocampus.

Interestingly, an MRI analysis showed there was greater bilateral (two-sided) hippocampal volume in moderate drinkers compared with patients who abstained, which has not been reported before. The study indicates moderate drinkers experienced less clinical pain and better sleep quality.

However, there was no significant correlation between the volume of the hippocampus and sleep or pain-related measures. Therefore, alcohol may affect fibromyalgia symptoms by acting on multiple levels, rather than on the hippocampus alone.

“Individuals with fibromyalgia alone or fibromyalgia and chronic insomnia endorsing low-to-moderate alcohol consumption reported lower pain symptomatology and had significantly larger hippocampi than abstainers,” the authors stated. “Based on these findings, systematic prospective and longitudinal work examining the relationship between drinking pattern and FM/FMI symptomatology is warranted.”

14 comments

  1. StevefromMA says:

    Wow,

    I wonder what meds for fibro those people are on? Pain and insomnia meds don’t mix well with alcohol and I gave up wine four years ago, unfortunately.

  2. desiree a sheridan says:

    Same here, stopped drinking years ago but am in so much pain, I’ll try a glass of wine a day. What do I have to lose? Moderation!

  3. Ms. B says:

    Yeah, i don’t know if alcohol would mix well with my meds, cause i take quite a few meds, and they all say don’t drink alcohol with the meds,i use to drink white wine, a few glasses in the evening, but had to stop the wine, cause it made me feel really funny and sick, so i would suggest u talk to your Drs first,cause trying to drink is not worth maybe accidentally overdosing,trying to have a drink.

  4. Patricia L Daisey says:

    If fibromyalgia medications are working, one wouldn’t consider consuming alcohol. However, I have had adverse reactions to fibromyalgia medications which resulted in prescribed ‘pain’ medications which reduced pain, but also made me more lethargic, sedated, and mentally slow. I noticed remarkable improvement in deep sleep after consuming at least 4 ounces of cognac. I still felt pain, but my muscles were more relaxed and the deep sleep welcomed. The amount of alcohol gave me approx 4 hours deep sleep which I feel is much needed. It was amazing not to ‘feel’ pain by having a total mind shut down as fibromyalgia and other illnesses can make us sad and depressed. The mind needs a rest just as much, if not more than the body. Of course all things in moderation, but I do feel that some of these medications may cause more serious affects to our organs as compared to alcohol. Looking back at my father who had Rheumatoid Arthritis and drank a manhattan with dinner, and high-ball at bedtime, my grandmother who had early onset Parkinson’s Disease and drank about 3 ounces of dry sherry as a night-cap, and my Paternal grandmother and her sister who had dinner drinks each night and lived til 96 and 94 respectively, all with not much medicinal intake. I must add, they did drink primarily water, and followed a Mediterranean Diet which I feel is important. Nutrition, hydration, sleep, exercise are remarkable and therapeutic. Right now I am taking Plaquinil twice a day which does allow for small amounts of alcohol.

    • Diane says:

      Thank you Patricia, great reference information here, I liked knowing that 4 oz was a workable dose for the cognac (for you). I’m on fibro. meds that also warn about alcohol consumption. I had been trying to decrease the amount of RX meds and increasing turmeric and ginger consumption, while also eating a more Mediterranean style diet as well. I don’t drink now, but in the past liked red wine. I saw an organic sulfite free wine advertised, so perhaps will try a wee amount of that at bed time to see if it helps. I agree that the mind also needs a rest, as well as the body. ~peace

  5. Kararina says:

    I come from a Swedish family where most are alcoholic. My sister and I both don’t have a problem and have a occasional red wine glass, (1 or 2 a month) My parents were daily vodka drinkers, and stopped in their 50’s. Thank you AA. I don’t find drinking helpful for a full night sleep, (I stop my Meds that go with alcohol) I always wake up and don’t feel well the next day. So it’s not worth it for me. Just think you should warn the dangers of alcoholism with an article lIke this.

  6. Karl says:

    Over the past three years since diagnosed with Chronic fatigue syndrome and fybromyalgia which were caused by aggressive Ebstein Barr. I still had a glass of dry red wine every day even with the high dosage meds I used. Alcohol never worsened my condition as long as I used it mildly. I have tapered down my meds over a period of 4 months to almost nothing and swithed to Cannabis oil at night only. Cut your sugar intake first and the difference will be noticeable within 7 days.First three weeks on Cannabis the pain were unbearable and almost went back on prescription meds but waited for a full month to pass. I personally think it cleans your body the first month.I am a new person clean from prescription meds and pain free. I can use alcohol as long as I don’t touch beer,whiskey or similar beverage as I am intolerant for that and it trigger megrains that can last up to a week. Try and see what work and stick to that. Over the time I have used every possible meds on the market,seen every specialist on this field, on homeopathic meds and even a anti inflammatory diet from a naturopath. Suffered a long time from depression and restless nights.Do what makes you comfortable and enjoy the dry red wine. Take your life back. It is possible.

  7. Deb says:

    For hundreds of years folk have resorted to alcohol due to pain issues… ‘Alcoholism as a result!!’…. tsk tsk…. YET they argue to the toss over legalising Cannabis!! I would love to try Cannabis patches but so dam regulated out here and illegal to use cannabis. It is also dam expensive to use the ‘business product of cannabis such as Sativa! and you have to be suffering of MS or Cancer to get a script. It’s all about the business of Making Money out of Cannabis first, NOT other person/s health and pain issues’…..tsk tsk

  8. Joanne Wright says:

    Having fibro and suffering from constant pain and insomnia for 30+ years now I can honestly say alcohol low, mild moderate or whatever use will not work at all. It may help whilst drinking ease the pain, but the sugar levels in alcohol alone will cause Inflammation in the body which in a fibro sufferer will be chronic, it may help you sleep but anyone who drinks doesnt get proper sleep. so the day after will be exhausting Therefore this study is false in my book

  9. Joan strowe says:

    This is not true, alcohol disturbs deep healing sleep. It also causes intestinal disturbances, especially for those of us who have IBS.

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