Muscle Pain and Statins - Common Questions, Part I
Welcome to Dr. Hurst's Health Questions Answered.
If you have had side effects from statin medications, you are not alone. Although about 90% of people take statins with no problems, there are a lot of people who have had side effects because statins are so frequently prescribed.
Far and away the most frequent side effect of statins is muscle pain. Typically, the pain is “all over” and not isolated to a specific body part. It can be challenging to determine if the muscle pain is caused by the statin as muscle aches are a common complaint for most of us, whether we are on a statin or not.
Why is this Important?
Because people who have stopped a statin due to side effects and aren’t able or willing to take another statin have a higher risk of heart attack and stroke than those who can find a statin that works for them.
The good news is that most people find a statin or use an alternative regimen (like taking the medication every other day) that allows them to be protected from heart disease without the side effects.
Here are the most common questions I get from my patients who may have muscle pain from a statin medication.
1) Is this life threatening?
The answer is allmost never. Life threatening problems on statin medications are exceedingly rare. However, persistent muscle pain after stopping the medicine needs urgent medical evaluation.
2) Do I really need to be on a statin?
For some people, the answer is “no”. Statin medications are beneficial if you have a high risk of heart disease or stroke. If you’re not at high risk, there is likely little benefit.
3) How can I tell if it’s the statin that’s causing my symptoms?
Sometimes it’s hard to tell. If you’re not sure, I often recommend stopping the statin for a few weeks. If the symptoms don’t change, restart the statin. If the symptoms go away (and weren’t severe) I typically recommend taking the statin again to see if the problem comes back.
I also recommend reviewing other medications to see if there are potential drug interactions with the statin. Blood tests to check thyroid and vitamin D can also be helpful
If you are trying to decide if taking a statin would be right you, download my FREE guide “Should you Take a Statin?”
This gives a balanced view of the risks and benefits of taking statin medications so that you can make the right decision for your goals.
If you’re at high risk for heart disease or stroke, your risk will be lower if you are taking a statin medication. However, taking a medication to prevent future problems that causes you to be miserable today doesn’t make sense to anyone. If you have had muscle pain problems on statins, talk to your doctor to see if there is a change that could be made to make a statin work for you.
And The Beat Goes On!
R. Todd Hurst, MD, FASE, FACC