Many people taking statin-type cholesterol-lowering medicine complain of muscle pain or weakness. Doctors often turn to a blood test to detect signs of drug toxicity. Specifically, they look for elevated levels of creatine phosphokinase to determine whether symptoms are truly a side effect of the medication. A new study shows, however, that statin-associated muscle pain is linked to microscopic damage of muscle fibers. Only one of the many patients with that type of structural change had a severely elevated level of creatine phosphokinase. This suggests that doctors may need to take muscle pain related to statins more seriously and not just rely on a blood test to determine muscle damage and drug toxicity. 

[CMAJ, July 7, 2009]

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  1. Avis

    I took simvastatin years ago and my legs hurt so bad i had to taking it. Eventually I got better after I stopped taking it. Now years later my doctor talked me into taking atorvastatin, like lipitor. My mouth and throat are very dry.My tongue started to feel slippery on sides, like the bumps and stiffness is gone. My tongue curls up down the middle and the end folds up. It feels like I have a wet noodle on the top of my mouth when my tongue touches the top of my mouth. I cant stop doing it and the back of my tongue hurts and saliva runs down my throat and makes me
    cough. It is driving me crazy! My lips get sore from the movement. Doctor sees no problem but she can’t feel what i feel. Can the medication be hurting my tongu muscle?

    • The People's Pharmacy

      Your symptoms are not like others that have been reported, so we don’t know if atorvastatin is responsible. Best of luck in recovering better mouth -feeling and tongue control.

      • Judy

        My husband took simvastatin and now has tongue control issues as well. It causes his speech to be slurred. He has been off statin since July 2015, but still has the tongue problem. We’ve been told by Doctor that it was caused by statin and will take several years to hopefully recover. Please share with me any information you may have on this.

    • Mejinn

      I have the same thing. My tongue feels like it’s burned and dry and it hurts!

  2. Gayle
    Oregon USA

    Coconut cure. I recently had a horrible unexplained bought of diarrhea. I ate coconut macaroon cookies after reading about them on this site. It completely cured my intestinal problems BUT also, my muscle and nerve disease from statins which I have struggled with for a year. Then, I also found myself forgetting to take my anti-histamines for allergy-asthma because my runny nose stopped running. The more coconut I eat the better I am! I just cannot believe it! For the first time in 20 years I can walk up stairs without knee pain associated with a badly blown ACL, and cartilage and bad surgery. I feel like a nut case talking about coconut this way, but the ‘good’ part of me says spread the word and don’t worry what people think. The only other thing I did was stop crossing my knees when I sit for long periods. I was a surgery candidate but am allergic to nickel alloys and almost all metals so knee replacement in its current for was not for me. Now I may not even need it. I am truly astounded and how many health improvements I have got from eating delicious cookies! I avoid ‘store bought’ ones with lots of additives. Even had my local baker make me some low sugar ones with no additives of course. I also make my own and have found a few organic ones in stores.

  3. Kaye R.

    I have been taking simvastatin for about 10 years, About 6 months ago my legs from my knee to my ankle begin to ache so horrible it would wake me up every night between 2am and 2:15 am. I would look like Fred Sanford when I got out of the bed each morning. A friend suggested it might be the simvastatin. I stopped taking it for 2 nights and had no pain. Started back on it and the pain came back immediately. I am not going to take anymore until I see my doctor in 2 weeks and discuss it with him. It makes me wonder about the other meds I take. Are they causing symptoms that I am taking another med for? It seems to be a vicious cycle.

  4. Bk

    My 86 year old mother took Lipitor and other cholesterol medicines for a year. She can only raise her arms up to her waist and is in so much pain constantly. She is ready to give up. My cholesterol is over 200 and I told my doctor I do not want to take cholesterol medicine. He disagree with me. So far, I am winning.

  5. Dorraine B.

    I am a 51 yr old woman, mother of three grown children and step mom of three.. 2 disabled. I have high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. My doctor originally prescribed me crestor which worked great. I didn’t know why they changed my prescription until I found out my insurance wouldn’t cover crestor anymore… God knows why. Anyway I was switched to Symvastatin and know I move like a 90 yr old woman. My Mom is 73 and is much more active than I. I have always been a work horse and a go getter. I have been very depressed about the pain that I suffer from the mid back to the lower back to the hips all the way down to the knees and believe it or not now it is even in my ankles and feet at times as well as my arms.
    It really hampers my life as I also have three small grandbabies and the oldest one is 4 and she always worries about how I’m feeling because she sees me in such pain when I walk, sit, get up, do dishes, anything…………I’m not taking anymore of their stupid cholesterol medicine. It’s not worth it.
    If living longer means suffering in pain everyday then I guess I’ll take my chances and enjoy how ever many days, months, years, decades I have left (hopefully as pain free as possible). P.S I do know that nuts (legumes) beans, cheerios and an assortment of other things do help to lower cholesterol and I will continue to research to find alternative methods. Best of luck to all. We only have one life to live, and no matter how long or short it should be as pain free as possible!!!

  6. Jim B.

    I took 10 Mg Lipitor daily for a year after open heart surgery in 2007. I did moderate weight work outs after the first few months and rode my bike 15 to 25 miles many days. I took 150-300 Mg CoQ10 daily for past 15 years.
    After 9 or ten months began to notice torso muscle ache and brought it to attention of my cardiologist at annual visit and he listed surgery, age, and Lipitor as likely causes. After online reading, I stopped Lipitor that day and by following day my aching was 75% improved. 4 years later I am deteriorating. My heart rate on bike rides is getting higher I think due to weaker heart muscle. Any moderately heavy lifting causes muscle spasms or worse. The last 6 months the palms and bottoms of my feet are quite tender in the morning and lately even sore all day.
    I am very concerned that I damaged my muscles’ ability to regenerate from what I read on line.
    I began taking Ubiquinol in addition to Q10 a week ago. Help!
    Anyone know doctors that may have a treatment for this? Anyone have any suggestions?

  7. LD

    In consultation with my doctor last summer, to lower my cholesterol from 225 I took Niacin for a few months and then a good quality Red Yeast Rice for 2 months with COq10. This did the trick and both LDL and HDL scores improved a lot to 59 and 72. This month (January) a fasting blood test (without prior exercise) showed elevated creatine kinase at 385 and total cholesterol up to 198. My doctor sent me a note that said there may be muscle damage from too much exercise and I should repeat the test in 4 months without exercise!
    I am concerned that the Red Yeast Rice damaged my muscles like statins can. Should I be concerned? (Apart from the cholesterol, slight carotid artery plaque and slight osteopenia I am otherwise healthy at 69 years and eat right and exercise).
    People’s Pharmacy response: This is certainly a red flag. It is not common for red yeast rice to do the serious damage that statins very occasionally can do, but it is also not impossible. It will be important to discuss this with your doctor, and probably discontinue the red yeast rice.

  8. sandysue

    My cousin claims she is permanently damaged from taking cholesterol medications. I have been off and on them for years for my LDL levels. I am worried the pain and weakness I feel, will become permanent. My Doctor reduced the pill to 4 times a week. The following morning, when I have not taken a pill, the muscle pain is relieved some. I am on a low fat diet and take no other medications. I am active, as much as I can be, but this permanent issue is scaring me. I am trying wheat germ cinnamon and several other spices that heard might help reduce LDL

    • Gayle

      Red yeast rice messed me up totally, muscle pain, joint pain, weakness, muscle wasted away, uncontrolled twitching in my leg muscles. AWEFUL! And I was afraid of statins so I only took half the recommended dose but I took it too long because there is no warning label on supplements so I did not stop at the first sign of pain.

      Anyway, I cured with coconut cookies. See my post dated today July 17, 2015. I don’t understand how coconut cured my muscles but I can say it did. I have been using coconut for about a month. I eat about 2-2 inch macaroons a day. Cured allegies and intestinal issues too.

  9. Jim

    I have taken lipitor in the past and was in so much pain that I could not walk without a cane. I stopped taking them and my pain lessened. After a move to another state my new doctor put me on a 1/2 pill of crestor a day. After two months I was in so much pain that I could not function. I quit taking crestor a month and a half ago and I’m still in so much pain its almost unbearable. My arms, legs, ankles, and especially the bottoms of my feet hurt constantly. At night they hurt so bad that it takes forever to go to sleep. Will it ever get better?

  10. sk

    I took Lipitor 9 months in 2001 and became so weak I could hardly function – particularly my upper body. It took many months to regain strength and in 2008 have swallowing problems – aspirating – basically because my tongue base is weak. Doctors and therapists think it has been going on a long time. Wonder if it was the Lipitor. The tongue is a muscle.

  11. CH

    I had the same pain (in front of both legs) from taking Pravachol (Pravastatin). Saw the doc, he said stop taking the pills for a couple of weeks, then resume taking another statin. I’ve been through several of them, they all cause pain for me.
    Good luck. Ask you doctor.

  12. JMNP

    I have very high triglycerides and was put on Zetia and Simvastin about a year ago then I read or heard on TV that Zedia was having some controversy so I stopped taking the Zedia. Have been taking the Simvastin. Just had my blood work done and the cholesterol was 264 but the triglycerides are 389.
    I noticed a few months ago soreness, tenderness and weakness in my upper right arm muscle and my right upper thigh muscle, the thigh muscle has seemed to improve but the upper arm has not, it is not bad but not like it used to be.
    Now a well renowned Dr. from a wonderful Heart hospital has added 2 more, after reading all of the negatives about muscle loss and not regaining the strength I am not going to take anything and try very hard to lose weight, eat right and exercise. I know I am taking a risk of maybe heart attack, stroke, or diabetes as I was told but I also do not want to end up with trouble walking or losing strength.
    Otherwise I am fairly healthy, passing the stress test, all organ blood work came back good. Don’t have too many choices but not happy with the way the upper muscle feels. Any suggestions anyone?

  13. JoelG

    Nancy, wow, horrible. How long did you take Lipitor for? My muscles wasted away, but I wasn’t paralyzed. What happened?

  14. nancy

    I want to connect up with others that took Lipitor and got rhabdomyolysis.
    I am now paralyzed for life and in constant pain because of lipitor.
    When I was first in the hospital Pfizer said not to worry and they would help me with some cost which worked out to be nothing
    life is horrible and i have to talk my self everyday into living
    thank you

  15. Sara G.

    My cholesterol got to 285, even though I eat well, and exercise daily. I was put on simvastatin, and had twinges down my leg fairly quickly. I took it for 6 weeks, kept getting worse, and started taking 1/2 a pill each day. Still getting worse, my flexibility was much worse, my endurance was rapidly getting worse, and I hurt down my legs. After 8 weeks or being off the statin, I stood up all day, and went home very weak and hurting.
    I read about CoQ10, bought a bottle, and felt better, but am not completely pain free after 2 weeks of the CoQ10. My cholesterol is going back up, and I’m not sure what to do.

  16. BKL

    My mother in law is 80 years old. She has been taking lipador for 13 years. She began complaining about not being able to sleep because of leg movement. Then it became hard for her to walk because her legs were so weak. I suggested it might be the lipador and her doctor did take her off the drug. She is still very weak and is taking physical therapy. Is there anything else she can do to regain her strength? She has been active all her life and of course this is also making her very depressed.

  17. JoelG

    NLA, when i read your comment about muscle pain I cringe. I took Lipitor for 6 months and suffered muscle pains in my legs, back and chest. Eventually my hip joints lost so much strength my hips felt wobbly. I simply felt weak and I was scared. I looked it up on line and figured the statins were wasting me away.
    I stopped them. But the damage was done and 6 weeks later my back muscles were still so weakened that they spasmed with such ferocity my wife had to drag / carry me moaning to the car and to the hospital. It took more than a month for the spasm to begin to loosen — by which time my arm muscles in my left arm had simply wasted away.
    Medications and physio did not help at that point — but fortunately i got huge relief from chinese acupressure. I’m absolutely serious — nothing else would break the spasm and the pain. This was 2005. Bit by bit my strength has returned. For 2 1/2 years I’ve worked 3 days a week with a physio therapist — and now she is more my trainer than therapist as I am fairly fit.
    I still have numbness from nerve damage due to the spasm — along my left arms and into my fingers. I take 200mg of CoQ10 daily which I have heard is good for recovery. FYI, my doctor originally put me on zocor — when i complained of pains she put me on lipitor. From my point of view statins are scary dangerous — I am grateful I got info enough to stop using them. So there you have it.

  18. NLA

    I am taking something called Pravachol and I am having shooting pains down my upper leg at different times of the day and night. It seems more prevalent at night but I wonder if it is not connected to the Pravachol—20mg. I took Lipitor for awhile and I had the pains then so they changed meds but I am still having them.
    What to do?

  19. crandreww

    And it’s not only muscle fibers, it’s Neuronal Death (Apoptosis), Mitochondrial DNA Mutations, refer to the American Journal of Cardiology Medicine, Feb 2009 issue, the results of the UCSD Statin Effects study I was in, was published here, yet many physicians choose to disbelieve that statins can do that, even when you take them back to Biochem and refresh their memory of the Mevolonate pathway.
    We are being held captive by a country full of QUACKS!! who have sold their souls to Big Pharma.

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