Q. For months I’ve been suffering with sciatica, muscle pain in my thighs, buttock and hips. I’ve been on Lipitor for several years. My primary doctor shrugged off my complaints but said I could try physical therapy. I did PT for 3 months, and it increased my pain. Then I went to a chiropractor for 3 months, which helped very slightly.

I started searching the Internet for answers and found comments on your site from lots of people are having similar problems. I’ve just gone off Lipitor and started taking CoQ10. I am anxious to know how long it will be before my pain subsides and my weak legs grow strong again.

A. Medications such as atorvastatin (Lipitor) and simvastatin (Zocor) do a good job of lowering cholesterol and can be important for people with heart disease or those at high risk of a heart attack. They do have downsides, however, and muscle pain and weakness are well-recognized reactions. Usually stopping the statin drug leads to improvement, but the time frame varies quite a bit from one individual to another.

Please let your doctor know of your decision to stop Lipitor so that he or she can monitor your heart health going forward. If you need to lower your blood lipids, you will find a number of suggestions, including fish oil, niacin, a low-carb diet and other approaches, in our Guide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health.

In the coming year, we will air an interview with Jonny Bowden, PhD, and Stephen Sinatra, MD, about their brand-new book, The Great Cholesterol Myth. You will want to stay tuned for this fascinating conversation.

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  1. Mike E

    I too, have been taking simvastatin for a couple of years and then suddenly developed a very painful and debilitating case of piriformis muscle syndrome. I instinctively stopped taking the drug and I’m starting to pull out of it after 3 weeks. But not until seeing pain management doctors, chiropractors and surgeons.
    Have been doing all the appropriate stretch’s and have Walked 15 blocks today… first time in 3 weeks.
    Imagine almost scheduling surgery because of a statin. Every day gets better. I’m looking forward to dancing on New Years Eve. Good Luck to all

  2. i.j

    This stretch is great for my burning buttock. It doesn’t help my leg pain though.

  3. hawk

    I too, also told the family physcian that I could not take any statins… they all attack the muscles and hip joints. Their reply was, you want to control your cholesterol ? I’m in pain with my calf muscles. I walk a lot on my job.They all only want to help control bad drugs that the FDA is not truly telling the truth about the side affects.

  4. John

    The sciatic nerve runs over the piriformis muscle. If the piriformis is tight, it will cause sciatic pain. For the right side, lay on your back, put your right ankle over your left thigh, grab your right knee and your right foot and very gently pull towards you. This should loosen the piriformis. My daughter had sciatica. She did this exercise once and the pain was gone. That’s one of my daily exercises.

  5. RP

    What exercises are you referring to?

  6. dp

    Thank you Joe and Terry for continuing to mention statins and their malicious side effects. Over twenty years on the market, thousands of lives ruined, many deaths unrecorded as having statin as the cause. This unconscionable travesty perpetrated by drug companies and doctors is the elephant in the room. How long will this continue? Even Ford and its Pinto finally had their day in court, and it didn’t take 20 years. Every time I learn of another ALS patient I could cry. My own son experienced the severe pain. Four of my friends have died- 2 from liver cancer when the drug was new and blood tests were not done, and 2 recently from ALS.
    Will this go on forever? Please don’t ever stop trying to protect the public from this dangerous menace handed out by the very people we trust our lives to! Don’t stop,Not until the world is aware of this awful secret. This is just as bad as the tobacco/cancer link, but the tobacco companies were not the protectors of the nation’s health.

  7. GLD

    I too had sciatica to the degree of not being able to put on my own shoes for 6 months. I was not on any of the medications mentioned. I tried my regular care giver, chiropractor, pain management specialist and therapy gave more than momentary relief and the therapy was to aggressive and aggravated the problem.
    Upon a recommendation of a friend went to a pain specialist in a different practice who recommended a much less aggressive therapy with a continuing program of daily stretching and moderate strengthening exercise.
    I have been problem free for over 9 years unless I do something really stupid like lifting completely wrong. I downhill skied until age 74 and still do lots of gardening and other physical work always remembering to stretch and not over do.

  8. George R.

    Search Google for the exercises. Do 1 time a day for 30 days. Stop satins, go on dash like lifestyle, put a salad as the main meal & buy Peoples Pharmacy book. It worked for me. Have been doing the exercises for 2 yrs.

  9. PP

    Take the CQ-10! Take the CQ-10! Take the CQ-10!

  10. Irene

    I have taken simvastatin for a number of years and it did lower my cholesterol. But when I told my primary care physician that I had muscle pain, he advised me to go off it for a few weeks and see how I felt. The day after I stopped taking it, I stopped having leg and foot cramps at night! It has now been 8 weeks and I am waiting to see whether it affects my other muscles. The doctor will be checking my cholesterol periodically to be sure I am not doing damage. I have heart disease but very little clogging of arteries, so my cardiologist approved of this action.

  11. Mary D.

    I urinated black for 3 months and was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis. I spent the winter in physical therapy-began getting on my feet-starting to not be so fatigued, having feeling in my feet again, back spasms stopped. I had seizures too. Had to hire a dog walker, and I start radiation therapy next week for the big C. It’s aggressive-atypical–there isn’t any relationship between statin and any cancer— But the stain certainly ruined what may have been my last summer. I don’t know if I’ll recover from the fatigue caused by radiation therapy-already having fatigue from stain doesn’t help my mental condition and at this point all the cancer people can is going for me is that I have good teeth and a good heart.
    Statin ruins lives- it ruined me. I was walking and jogging with my hounds from a little over a mile to around 14 miles a day. We had fun until I took the statins. The FDA warnings don’t cover the side effects and they water down what they have. Go see SpaceDoc.com I got to get ready to meet with more cancer doctors and staff. Some people never recover-eat high protein-drink lots of cranberry juice. It helped me a lot.

  12. Jan

    In regards to the reader with sciatica- hip/thigh pain. Not all chiropractors or Physical Therapists are alike – I found one that uses an ‘Activator’. This instrument pushes my spine, pelvis & muscles back into place in little ‘pops’. It’s a much safer way to align the body. [It’s important to find one that has an Advanced certification] I then follow up with a Physical Therapist that is showing me wonderful stretches for the hip & thigh. I also recommend you find a medical massage therapist – there is a deep tissue massage [in the gluteal area] that will work wonders for your buttocks & thigh pain. I have done a lot of researching for my own Sciatica problems and have found they do not need to sideline us, or allow others to dictate what our limitations are. Back surgery might very well be in my future but for now there really are safer methods for dealing with this chronic problem.

  13. Dave M

    These contraindications are typical. I think that everyone on statin drugs should take at least 100 Mg of CoQ10 daily. The Walmart brand works just fine for me, and is the least expensive.

  14. HJL

    Your story is not unusual. It is important for all to read the Graedon’s response very carefully. They give the facts but don’t editorialize which I do.
    They said in part, “…can be important for people with heart disease or those at high risk of a heart attack.” Note they did not say that everyone should be taking them. If you don’t have heart disease and if you are not at a high risk for heart attack, maybe you shouldn’t be taking them. Remember, for people over 65 a total cholesterol of 230 is associated with longer life.
    You must really look at your HDLs (good), Triglycerides (bad) and what kind of LDLs you have. Not all LDLs are bad only the small dense ones. The simple fact is many are taking statins who don’t need them and suffering needlessly.

  15. crandreww

    I am so sorry to hear of your apparent statin effects….and even more sorry to hear that your physician, failed to recognize one of the most common ill effects of Statins….My statin effects occurred 10 years ago, along with my disability, and I still deal with them every day…I pray that yours is not as permanent as mine is…If you are over 40ish, your body no longer is able to reduce CoQ10 to its useful form, Ubiquinol, you may want to supplement with this product to possibly assist in your healing..and should you ever consider statin “therapy” again, Ubiquinol supplementation is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT!

  16. Mary N

    I took a similar statin, Zocor, until I started having serious neck pain and got a similar reaction from my doctor when I complained about it. So like you, I read about side effects on the Net and stopped taking it. It was nearly a year before the pain went away completely, but I was just grateful that it finally did — though permanently disillusioned, because that was the second time I had to take myself off a drug because of side effects that a doctor poo-poo’d. I read somewhere that muscle damage from statins can sometimes be permanent.
    Looks to me like Big Pharma just settles its lawsuits out of court and goes right on pushing its dangerous drugs with glamorous commercials and bribes for doctors.

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