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Is Your Cholesterol Medication Causing Joint Pain and Stiffness

Is Your Cholesterol Medication Causing Joint Pain and Stiffness

Statins are one of the most widely prescribed medications to help reduce your cholesterol and the risk of stroke and heart attacks, especially in cases where those health issues are inherited. But could these medications create other health issues? A recent study found that people taking statins had a 19 percent higher risk of having musculoskeletal problems compared to non-statin users and were 13 percent more likely to suffer from strains, sprains and dislocations.

Statin drugs are designed to block the liver enzyme that produces cholesterol. Too much cholesterol in the blood can result in plaque buildup and narrowing or hardening of the arteries that can lead to stroke or heart attack. There are two types of statins -- hydrophilic and lipophilic. While lipophilic drugs generally penetrate the central nervous system more than hydrophilic drugs, both types can result in myopathy, a clinical disorder that causes pain in the skeletal muscles.

Myopathy is separated into three different types:

  • Myalgia refers to general pain in the muscles and an increase in the creatine kinase enzyme associated with muscle damage. This enzyme can be detected in the bloodstream through a blood test.
  • Myositis is inflammation of the muscles that results in muscle pain, tenderness, or weakness and a higher level of creatine kinase in the bloodstream.
  • Rhabdomyolysis is an extreme, life-threatening type of myopathy brought on by muscle breakdown and a significant increase in creatine kinase built up in the kidneys.

If you recently began taking a statin to manage your cholesterol and are suffering from joint pain and stiffness, muscle cramps and weakness, or tendon problems, talk to your doctor about your symptoms. A blood test can determine the creatine kinase levels in your bloodstream.

Your doctor may recommend that you take a break from strenuous exercise, which could be a contributing factor to your symptoms, or suggest a decrease in the statin dosage. Decreasing your dose may help reduce muscle pain and weakness, but it may also inhibit the cholesterol-lowering effects of your medication. Talk to your doctor about your options and ask if switching to another statin would work well for you. Never stop taking this or any medication without talking to your doctor first.