Runner holding sore leg knee pain from running or exercising jogging injury or cramp

Q. I have read about side effects of simvastatin and told my doctor about the muscle and joint pain I’ve been experiencing on this cholesterol-lowering drug. I even pointed out that this is listed in the info that comes with the prescription and asked if it could be from the pills.

He sent me for X-rays. The word that came back was my pain is due to old age. I’m 65 and I don’t think that qualifies.

I’ve been on statins since I was 45 years old. I stopped taking them on my own once, but the next blood test showed my cholesterol was higher.

I would dearly love to get off this darn medication. I am hoping that would help me feel better. Is there anything natural that I can eat instead to keep my cholesterol where it should be?

A. Muscle pain and weakness are recognized as common side effects of cholesterol-lowering drugs such as atorvastatin, lovastatin, pravastatin and simvastatin (European Journal of Internal Medicine, June, 2012). Although joint pain is listed in the official prescribing information for such drugs, it is less well recognized as a statin side effect (British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, Oct. 2008).

There are many non-drug approaches to reducing cholesterol. Several readers report that including avocados or nuts in their weekly diets helps.

A vegetarian “portfolio diet” lowers cholesterol about as well as a statin (Journal of the American Medical Association, Jul. 23, 2003). This diet combines vegetables high in soluble fiber such as okra and eggplant with soy protein, almonds and plant sterols in cholesterol-lowering margarine.

A number of other diets can also be useful. We offer practical advice on the DASH diet, the Mediterranean diet and a healthy low-carb diet along with recipes in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies (available in libraries, bookstores and online).

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  1. Daria
    N.Y. State

    I’m 56 and have tried several different medications for my cholesterol problem,which I’ve had for several years. Mine is hereditary, and a diet change wouldn’t benefit me due to weighing between 100-103. I already eat everything that could possibly benefit myself. Every drug I’ve tried comes with terrible leg pain. Dr. did prescribe Crestor which wasn’t bad but insurance stopped covering it due to having a generic brand. So I’m back to pain and stopped taking it. Reading previous comments about supplements that helped–that’s my next step.

  2. Tish

    I have high Cholesterol and I’ve been taking Red yeast Rice supplement and my numbers are coming down, (except for the good cholesterol which is increasing). I fight my MD all the time on this, but I had the cramps and pain side effects, so I stopped taking them. I think it’s important to get those numbers in order, but when the medication can be worse than the cure, I wonder.

  3. Alma
    Woodbury, Minnesota

    I have been on Pravastatin for seven years. After a few days on this drug I began having SEVERE nightly leg and feet cramps two or three times a night EVERY Night. I took a Magnesium supplement daily which helped, but it had a very bad laxative effect. I couldn’t leave my home at times. I couldn’t take this horrible side effect any longer. At the same time, I began thinking about the statin medication I was on. So I stopped taking it and NO muscle cramps. I plan to see my doctor in a few weeks to let her know. After complaining about these severe cramps for so long, and not being listened to makes me wonder about the medical profession. Are they so focused on seeing record numbers of patients daily that they forget how to listen?

  4. Jeff

    Taking statins caused me pain in feet and knees. I tried lowering my cholesterol through diet and I was able to lower it significantly. But I found that when my cholesterol was reduced by my diet I had pain in my joints like the statins gave me. Now I am trying CQ10 supplement along with my diet to get rid of the pain. Too early to tell if it works.

  5. Kathleen
    Richmond VA

    Has anyone read The Big Fat Surprise -Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet by Nina Teicholz??? We no longer have to worry about HIGH cholesterol. Ancel Keys’ research was flawed!!!!
    Hope that that the Graedons interview the author soon.
    I am 3 months away from being 70 & take no meds!!! My husband is 70 & he also takes no meds!

  6. Ellen
    Atlanta, GA

    April 19, 2016

    For years, I had been on statins and experienced significant body pain. My physical therapist suggested that I speak with my doctor and discuss my concerns with him. He told me to go off the statins for a short time and monitor how I felt.

    Within 4 days, all the aches and pains I had suffered with were gone. My doctor still monitors my cholesterol and suggests some other methods to keep my levels down.
    I feel like a new person!

  7. Lisa

    I take twice daily 1 tbsp Braggs Vinegar and coconut oil. My total cholesterol runs about 187. I am on no medications. Just vitamins and I drink lots of water esp during the summer. I also exercise and try to be mindful of my diet. So far so good. I would never take a statin. Personally they are over prescribed and sadly cause more health issues in the end. (Hence the depletition of a very essential nutrient -CoQ10-.. The biggest money making drug in the market. (Statins) yet heart disease remains the top killer in America.

  8. Berry
    Phoenix, AZ

    I was taking 40mg of simvastatin twice a day for ten years. My cholesterol was 230. I also began to develop diabetes. My A1c was 6.4. I stopped two years ago and my A1c went down to 5.3 and my
    cholesterol was 180. I watched my diet and stayed away from junk food. I also began to take flaxseed ground over my oatmeal.

  9. ron

    I eliminated back pain from the lipitor (atorvastatin) I take by taking 200 mg of CoQ10 and reduced my med from 20 to 10 mg.

  10. Ellen

    I have been taking Simvastatin for a long time. When I first started it I experienced muscle aches. My internist told me to take CO-Q 10. It is an over-the-counter supplement. I take 200 mg once a day and have not had any issues with muscle aches. And, as an added benefit, CO-Q 10 is good for your heart.

  11. Joan

    I am borderline high cholesterol and my cardiologist recommended I try Red Yeast Rice. It seems to be working for me without the painful joints!

  12. Marilyn

    I am 67 years old and was on simivastin for 3 years About two years ago I went off my simivastin and I too had the same problem with my cholesterol numbers going up. I decided to try again this past August after reading Bruce Fifes book, The Coconut Oil Miracle. With my doctors approval, I went off the simivastin and started taking coconut oil, a tablespoon three times a day as well as cooking with it, along with exercising and watching my diet. Six months after going off the simivastin I had a blood test and my numbers are right where they should be.

  13. SILKY

    Hi I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia 15 years ago. What I dont understand is why did my doctor put me on statins knowing I was in pain 24/7. So today is the day I bin my statins forever. Thank you all for opening my eyes….

  14. Barbara

    Hi I was on simvastatin for two and a half years constantly complaining to my doctor that I had pain in my back, a couple of weeks went by and then it was in my shoulders. I was sent for every test in the book, nothing came back except there was a white matter on my brain. I was fifty years young at the time and 150 lbs, I was undiagnosed for the two and a half years crying to my doctor that I needed something for the pain (not until we find the problem). Was sent to all kinds of doctors I felt like I had three hundred elephants on my shoulders.
    So now I am diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I get little for the pain and nothing for the damage it did to my brain. I have no short term memory. Can’t work my upper muscles are like they are demolished, can’t remember anything and while I was on this I lost 51 lbs going down to 99lbs and my doctor would not give me anything for the pain I have neuropothy in hands and feet, and I am left to live this way the rest of my life.
    This was 20 mg I cant imagine people out there being misdiagnosed for their pain, memory loss and oh yea I called the makers of simvastatin and they said to call the maker in India, I wanted this reversed, I am sure I left a lot out, But that is my story on simvastatin. thanks

  15. Mary

    If you are taking any statin drug please add ubiquinol (CoQ10) as well. It is better absorbed by the body than ubiquinone and is an essential nutrient, especially for heart and brain.
    This may reduce the possibility of side effects or reduce those you now have if you choose to continue taking a statin.
    Count yourself lucky if you haven’t experienced any muscle problems or mental fuzziness.

  16. Peggy L.

    Red Rice Yeast also helps lower cholesterol.

  17. pkp

    Flaxseed meal sprinkled on cereal.

    • don

      red rice yeast raised my triclycerides and very high, I was taken off of them.

      • Dianne

        Red Rice Yeast shot my triglycerides up to 496 and severe leg cramps! I have tried soooo many remedies to try reduce my cholesterol but everything I try causes leg cramps! Allergic to all stations! Help ANYONE?

        • Evelyn
          NEW JERSEY


          For the last 30 years my cholesterol count has been between 220 to 240. My PCP wanted to put me on a statin, but I refused and kept refusing. Finally he gave up and stopped suggesting it. About a year or so ago, I began to take Metamucil in order to bulk up my stool. After awhile I dropped the dose of Metamucil to one heaping teaspoon a day rather than the tablespoon doses recommended. I recently had blood work done and my cholesterol had dropped to 196; a drop of 35 points from my last blood work a year ago. The only change in my diet was the Metamucil. I feel sure that is what caused the drop. So now I take one heaping teaspoon daily to maintain my cholesterol. An added benefit is that it’s also good for me.

  18. Ron in Houston

    My doctor recommended taking OTC CO Q-10 with my statin after complaining of muscle pains. It worked for me, take 100 mg a day.

  19. PP

    Avocados, oatmeal with Fiber 1 or Oat bran on it, lots of vegetables, your own dressing from olive oil, seasoning with turmeric and rosemary, and low on mammal meats. Like the Adventists say, the less an animal knows it’s mother, the better it is for you!
    Also lots of exercise!

  20. JB

    I really like the books from People’s Pharmacy – I recently read their “Favorite Foods” book and am excited to put it to good use and have shared it with many family members.
    There is another book on the market from a cardiologist called “Wheat Belly.” A title obviously meant to catch people’s attention, but it contains so much research and history on the connections between wheat, how the wheat was cross-bred in the 1900’s which caused significant changes in the plant, and how the new proteins affect the body – including how it blocks the chemicals in the brain that normally tell you when you feel full and to stop eating, and how it ties in to high cholesterol and blood pressure. The timing of it corresponds tightly with the rise of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes and other chronic inflammatory diseases in western culture and explains how eating wheat and other grains with similar proteins in place of fats may have erroneously caused the current epidemic of heart disease instead of making it better. Fortunately, the FDA recently reduced it’s old recommendation of 5 servings of grain a day (as the base of the food pyramid) to only a quarter of the new shape (round, like a plate).

  21. RMB

    I had the same problem with simvastatin. Severe muscle pains in the thighs would hit me like a sledge hammer off and on during the day and bring tears to my eyes. Doctor switched me to Grape Seed supplement at 750 mg/day in addition to Zetia 10 mg/day. LDL went from 171 to 102 in 90 days. Alternatives are there all you need is a good doctor that cares.

  22. cpmt

    vitamin B3 Niacin… can help, red yeast rice can also help but some people have side effects.

  23. HN

    FYI.. As a massage therapist, I have had many clients describe their pain as “joint pain” and some even tell me that they think it may be arthritis. Upon treatment, we found that it was actually pain AT the joint caused by the tendon from a muscle that attaches to that joint. In order for a muscle to move a joint, its tendon has to be attached to the joint, so when something affects the muscle or tendon and causes pain (e.g., a statin drug), it may be described as joint pain.
    A common problem that I see in age 50 and older people is what they describe as “hip pain” but it’s caused ONLY by the piriformis muscle that attaches to the thigh bone. I have to wonder how many people with this same complaint are referred by their primary care doctor to an orthopedic surgeon, who then recommends hip replacement (I only see the people who refused to have that surgery and are thankful that they did).

  24. Judith Cooper, RD, MS

    My total cholesterol number was lowered by 60 points following Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s diet which can be found in his book, “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”. It is a healthy diet and the recipes in the book are easy to make and delicious. I had been told to go on cholesterol lowering medications about 4 years ago and have not had to do so by following this plan. Good Luck!

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