People who drink heavily often experience muscle pain. While weak or painful limbs might be expected after a night of heavy drinking, it could be a serious health issue if it lasts several days. When this occurs, it could be a condition called alcohol myopathy. Read on to learn more about this condition and when to seek help.
Myopathy is a general term used for diseases that affect your muscles. This occurs when muscle fibers don’t work properly, leading to muscle weakness. Some cases are inherited, while others are caused by lifestyle and environmental factors.
What Is Alcohol Myopathy?
Alcohol myopathy is a condition that causes muscle pain, weakness, and loss of musculoskeletal function in response to long-term or heavy drinking habits. It can occur suddenly after binge drinking or after regular heavy alcohol use.
The liver is responsible for breaking down toxins so they can be removed from the body; when this process isn’t working properly due to alcohol consumption, too much toxin remains in your bloodstream and damages your muscles’ ability to repair themselves after exercise.
The symptoms of alcohol myopathy are similar to those of other types of alcohol-related muscle damage:
- Muscle pain and weakness
- Slow heart rate
- Low blood pressure
- Low body temperature
Risk Factors for Alcohol Myopathy
Other risk factors for alcohol myopathy include age, body weight, and timing of alcohol consumption. Alcohol myopathy is more likely to occur in older people because their bodies process alcohol differently than younger people. In addition, being overweight increases the risk of developing alcohol myopathy because it causes difficulty metabolizing carbohydrates that help absorb toxins from food or drinks instead of being processed through the digestive system.
Also, drinking on an empty stomach may increase your risk by causing a rapid spike in blood levels of acetaldehyde (a toxic byproduct created when alcohol is broken down) can damage muscle tissue if consumed too quickly or too much over time. Finally, people with alcoholism are more susceptible to this condition.
The Link Between Alcohol Use Disorders & Myopathy
Alcohol myopathy occurs in about one-third of people with an alcohol use disorder. And it’s prevalent among people with other alcohol-related diseases like cirrhosis. Alcohol use disorder is when you drink too much over time and experience negative consequences (such as health problems or legal trouble).
To be diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder, the DSM-5 suggests looking at the severity of the problem. Severity is based on the number of criteria someone meets based on their symptoms – mild (2-3 criteria), moderate (4-5 criteria), or severe (6 or more):
- Drinking more or longer than intended
- Tried to cut down or quit drinking but were unsuccessful
- Spent most time drinking or getting over the effects
- Carved drinking so severely you couldn’t think of anything else
- Drinking interfered with caring for your family, home, friends, school, or work
- Cutting back on previously enjoyable activities due to drinking
- Gotten in a situation while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt
- Continued drinking despite negative health consequences
- Increased the amount of drinking because the previous amount didn’t cause the same effects
- Constantly struggling with withdrawal symptoms
How to Prevent Alcohol Myopathy
The only way to prevent or treat alcohol myopathy is to stop drinking. While it’s impossible to reverse the damage, you can help your body recover by avoiding alcohol while taking medications, supplements, and herbal remedies.
If you think you have alcohol myopathy, it’s essential to seek medical treatment as soon as possible. If your symptoms are severe or your muscles are severely damaged, you may need to go to the hospital. Sometimes, people with alcohol myopathy will need to stay in the hospital for several days or weeks.
Getting Help for Alcohol Addiction
If you have alcohol myopathy, you must stop drinking and seek treatment immediately. If you or someone you know is dealing with alcohol addiction, please know there’s help available. Talk to your doctor or a mental health provider to discuss your treatment options. Detoxification and rehab programs can help you find the right path to long-lasting sobriety and recovery from addiction.
There are inpatient and outpatient treatment options for addiction. Inpatient treatment is more intensive and involves 24/7 medical care provided on-site. Outpatient treatment options are more flexible but do require patients to commit to attending a rehab facility throughout the week to participate in treatment sessions.
Treatment for alcohol myopathy involves dealing with unhealthy drinking habits. Because of this, most people will need to start with detox and move on to a rehab program to learn how to live life without the influence of alcohol.