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

Q. I am 44 years old and took simvastatin for five years. I was very active and full of energy before taking simvastatin. Gradually, I lost strength in my body, especially in my left leg. I could hardly raise it to get out of a car or chair. I also began to have memory problems, muscle cramps, muscle twitching, and fatigue.

I went to the emergency room when I got so weak I could hardly walk. There was fear I might have multiple sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease but the tests came back normal.

I was told to stay off simvastatin for 4 to 6 weeks. I have noticed huge changes in only two weeks. The fatigue has gone, I can walk again, my memory and concentration are improved, my strength has returned and my left leg is feeling better!

The neurologist does not think simvastatin could have caused these side effects but I am convinced it did. Are there alternative ways to lower cholesterol?

A. The pain and muscle weakness you experienced have been reported by hundreds of visitors to our website ( We have also heard from many people that statins can cause muscle twitching, fatigue, memory problems and ALS-like symptoms.

There are other ways to control cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Ask your doctor about drugs such as cholestyramine, niacin or aspirin. We are sending you our Guide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health with many nondrug approaches and a discussion of the other medications.

One reader shared this experience: “I have taken a number of different statins over the years and always had muscle pain. My doctor recently had me try cholestyramine. It seems to be working fine with no muscle pain. I am surprised it isn’t better known.”

Dale wrote: “I was on simvastatin for several years as were my daughter, son, sister and niece. We all developed severe pains of one sort or another. My doctor told me that he would not drain my knee anymore and that it was time for knee replacement surgery. My daughter was about to have carpal tunnel surgery on both wrists. She suspected simvastatin and and quit taking it. Two weeks later her symptoms were gone. I then quit taking it and my knee problems went away. I have been off of the drug for 5 years and no symptoms have returned. My son, sister and niece have all quit and have had the same results. It seems as if all of my gene pool are allergic to this drug.”

While statins are certainly appropriate for some people, if side effects appear, the benefit/risk ratio may be out of balance. It makes sense to keep evaluating whether a statin is necessary. These drugs are most effective for middle-aged men with heart disease or with multiple risk factors for a heart attack. 

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  1. Ellen

    I took a statin drug 15 years ago and started getting severe hip pain at night when trying to sleep. I went to doctor who put me in Physical Therapy which did not help then I got cortizone shots in my hip which helped some. After 3 years of this a friend asked me if I was on a statin drug. When I said yes, she said try going off of it and see if pain resides. I stopped the drug and after a week I had absolutely no pain.

    Skip to today, I am 67 years old and have very high cholesterol levels and a new doctor advises me that today due to the side effects from statins that doctors are recommending you take one pill a week and it helps to lower the bad cholesterol with rare side affects. So I try it.

    After only 4 weeks, my hip pain at night returned with a vengeance. I stopped the meds (Zetia) and unfortunately after 8 months now the pain has not gone away. I am afraid I have permanent damage. I am going to see an Orthopedist next week. Do not take STATINS ever!!!

  2. Peter

    I’m sure a good plant-based diet can have similar cholesterol lowering advantages as taking a statin. I’ve changed my diet at 70 after triple bypass surgery 12 months ago, to mostly vegetarian no dairy, no sugar & I’m going off statins but taking a non- statin, as I was on both as recommended by my cardiologist. I can check my cholesterol at home so I’ll see how it goes.

  3. JJ
    N of LA

    Simvastin 40 mg daily for a decade or more, healthy lifestyle, good lipid profile. After starting a gym program, I developed muscle pain in both upper arms. I persisted with the gym, using an experienced personal trainer. Because I’d been on a statin so long,, I did not associate the medication with the pain – even though I am an RN, retired. After 20 months of increasing upper arm pain, I took time off the gym, which had improved my balance, endurance, strength and flexibility, so was reluctant to do this.
    Eventually, I found a research paper from physical therapists that linked statin use with muscle pain starting with increased exercise. I stopped the statin a week ago. Still with real pain in upper arms, not helped by ibuprofen or acetaminophen, but a fatigue I had put down to a serious respiratory virus has disappeared.
    Please post how long before your muscle pains decreased after stopping a statin. I need to have hope that stopping the medication is the answer…

  4. Janet Hord
    Chesapeake, Virginia

    I’ve been on Crestor for several years. I had to reduce the dosage to 5 mg every other evening due to the all over muscle pain and weakness. It was about one month ago that they filled the generic for Crestor. I believe it’s Robovstatin? Anyway, on 2/14/17 I had debilitating pain in my left leg. I couldn’t hardly walk. It continued to get worse, so I went to a local Patients First. They couldn’t find anything wrong, however, told me to go to the ER if symptoms persist. I was at the ER three days later. They did a blood test to rule out a blood clot in my major arteries. Told me the test was negative then sent me home. I was completely frustrated! I felt it was time to self diagnose. When I started doing real homework it led me to statins. There could be no other reason for this debilitating pain I’m having. It’s progressed to both legs, arms, back, and neck. I just sent a request to join the Facebook page for stopping statins. I truly pray they haven’t done permanent muscle damage. I’ve been off of them for three days now, but no improvement. I’m going to try everything to get these statins out of my system. The blog states an apple a day, vitamin D, vitamin B, and a product called CoQ10. Amazing that I’ve never heard of this and the web states you should be taking CoQ10 while on statins! Anyway, I pray I found what is wrong and that I can go on with my life without pain soon.

    • SHARON
      NEW YORK

      I have been on simvastatin for 13 years now. I never put it together but all of a sudden my right leg is so stiff I can’t even put my own shoes on. I am 62 and too young to feel like a cripple. My joints are stiff, and I am no less active than a normal 62 year old. I don’t go to the gym regularly, but I am active with my grandson and every day activities.

      As I started to get progressively worse where I have trouble even keeping after a 17-month old, it hit me that it may be the statins., After researching, I am sure now that they have debilitated me. I have not seen my doctor yet, but went off them completely just 3 days ago. Hopefully, I will get better again.

  5. Henry
    Danvers, MA

    Have been on 4 different statins for the past 2 yrs and have experienced the same problems as others in this blog. Doctor was trying to find one my system would tolerate. Not happening so that is the end of the statin drugs until my cardiologist can come up with a “plan B” which is being worked on. My question is this: How long does it take until my body clears itself clean of any residual statin medication?

  6. Kelly
    British Columbia

    47 Year old Male, had stroke almost 3 years ago. Dr. put me on 80mg of Lipitor. 9 months later, I lost feeling from my knees down, had neurological burning down right side of face and leg. Did all the usual tests for MS, ALS, tumors etc. 9 months later I stopped taking it altogether after reading so many of these similar posts. Now control cholesterol thru exercise, Omega 3 and fibre. Still have long term muscle weakness and weird random pains all over body…will probably never go away but is MILES better than it was.

  7. Ronnie G

    I have been on atorvastatin for 6 years now. Over the last two years I developed a neuropathy like pain in both feet. The bottom (balls) of my feet feel like they are frost-bitten and are very sore. I had back surgery 9 months ago because Dr said I had pinched nerves causing my foot pain. No relief yet. I think it is from the statin drug, I stopped a week ago but no change as of yet. Does anyone else have foot pain, tingling and burning feeling?

  8. Margaret
    Midfield, west Yorkshire

    I have been on statins for over 12 years when I had an heart attack my cholesterol was 4.5. I am a wreck with severe leg pain and now shoulder and upper arm pain. I was really strong and fit now all I do is sleep. I have an amazing memory but don’t have the same concentration. I now feel as if I’ve lost ten years of my life. I think stations should be banned I don’t know what to do next. I am 66 and my life is in a mess. I live on my own so I have no backup.

      boca raton, fl

      I am an MD with coronary artery disease, four stents, and have been on statins for twenty two years. First one was Mevacor, no longer on market, and developed severe weakness, could barely get out of bed. Stopped and got better.
      I have recently had periodic attacks of weakness, chills, and muscle pain and have stopped my statin. I have ” idiopatic peripheral neuropaty, pain In feet, controlled by Lyrica 150 mg twice a day.

      my neuropathy is probably due to Statins , or possible Agent Orange from my experience in Viet Nam. If I were you, I would stop statins, and ask Cardiologist about new drug, Repatha, to control cholesterol. Very expensive, must be give by injection every two weeks.

  9. MaryAnn

    I was taking the generic for Lipitor. I first had trouble with my feet and after a visit to a foot doc, LOTS of shoes with varying types of arch support, I decided that the leg and foot pain must be caused by something else. I looked up arch support and leg pain and found a connection to statin drugs. I am off them now for almost four weeks but still have all the pain. Hopefully it will all go away. Typically of me, I don’t really know how long I have been on statin drugs but probably two years. I am not a fan of drugs anyway.

  10. Pattie
    Upstate ny

    Years ago I was on Lipitor, 10mg. Had no side effects that I knew of. Just went on Lipitor 40 mg a month ago, never giving it much thought that it might be the meds, I continued using it for 28 days. Weak leg muscles, up and down stairs, had to sit to breath again, and feel like the legs could move on. If I am sitting I feel fine, and I am usually on the go, as such. So I get up to do something and in a very short time, I am just so weak, I have to sit.
    I’ve been off the medicine for 5 days. I have not seen any changes as of yet, I’m wondering how long should it take ? Or do I need more blood testing , ?
    Someone please share some knowledgeable information with me. Thank you

  11. Dennis

    80 yrs old. Came off Statins 12mth ago after 10yrs of pain/pulled muscles. I now take supplement Co- Enzyme Q10 and exercise upper body, seems to work. I still have weakness round rib cage which wants to collapse when in bed,but I am not in pain. I was on 40mg of statins but never no more. Doctors dish Statins out like sweets and I am surprised how many people in this area have pain problems. I have regular check ups all ok.

  12. Richard

    I have been taking Atorvastatin (Lipitor) 10mg for a few months. Developed leg cramps and spasms during night. They would wake me up from sleeping. Stopped taking the med. At appt. with Dr. he said everyone gets muscle cramps. He said with my Cholesterol /triglyceride lelvels I need to be on it. He has to be careful with the meds he uses since I have had episodes of tachycardia. I developed leg spasms, pain, muscle weakness, my body feels totally exhausted, can’t lift my leg to get in my golf cart, tractor or do any type of work on our small farm. Everything says to discuss with Dr. before stopping it but with his comment during our last visit I’ve taken things into my own hands and stopped the med. Now I don’t know if I should expect side effects from curtailing the meds?

    • BillW

      10 mg Atorvastatin per day is a very light dosage. Were you on it long enough to determine if your blood lipid profile had improved? Going off of a statin for a few weeks is unlikely to cause symptoms of its own, but long term your cholesterol and particularly the “bad” cholesterol will go back to its previous levels and your “good” cholesterol will as well.

      You should talk to your doctor about this and maybe try another statin. You may be just highly susceptible to side effects from Atorvastatin. Of course you may be sensitive to all statins, but I wouldn’t give up on the basis of experience with one. See my previous post. After two weeks off of Atorvastatin having been on it for two years my muscle pain has diminished somewhat, but still pretty annoying. I read that muscle pain usually clears up for most after a month off the drug, but some can take up to 6 months. Permanent muscle damage is extremely rare and a “CK” blood test will often be elevated in that case.

  13. BillW

    Here’s what I know after many years and several doctors: People react differently to different statins. If one causes a problem, another can be tried. They can be dramatically effective in lowering overall cholesterol, lowering bad cholesterol and raising good cholesterol, as well as in actually reducing heart attack and stroke. There may be other benefits under investigation currently.

    Generalized aching muscles (affects people in different areas) is not that uncommon and can be severe. Reducing dosage can help, but there can be a trade off of course. It very rarely causes lasting damage. Blood tests to determine whether or not your muscle pain is due to your statin are NOT conclusive, although a test can sometimes determine if major muscle damage has been done.

    There are fat soluble and water soluble statins, as well as differences among the statins, in effectiveness and side effects that are very patient-dependent. Exercise and diet to improve blood lipid (fat) profiles can be very helpful in some, but not in all. A new VERY expensive injectable (once or twice per month) is available that produces a major improvement in blood cholesterol profiles, but long term effectiveness in preventing actual heart attack or stroke has not been proven nearly as much as has that of statins.

    My advice: consult a good preventive cardiologist if you have a family history of cardiac or arterial disease, or diminished blood flow-caused male erectile dysfunction (yep!) or have a bad cholesterol/blood lipid profile. Your G.P. may or may not have the best knowledge or experience to properly diagnose or treat you. Remember that a routine treadmill or ECG that comes back normal still has negligible value in predicting your likelihood of having a future heart attack or stroke. You need specialized tests or scans. Don’t settle.

  14. Mary

    Stopped taking statins 2 days ago and can already feel the difference. Hardly any leg pains. Fantastic.

    • BillW

      That’s great, Mary, but if your physician put you on statins, there’s a reason. Explore alternatives. You probably should not do nothing :)

  15. CLM
    Salt Lake City

    I have been on Atorvastatin for at least 6 months and like many of you have muscle pain in legs, hips, knees, and thighs. It has become worse In the last 8 weeks suffering with pain so bad at night that I am getting very little sleep. A visit to my doctor to inform him of muscle pain and stiffness that has become severe..he assured me it was not the Statin, but at the end of my visit said I could go off the drug for 2 weeks. It has been 8 days since taking the drug and the last 2 days I can see improvement. I am excited to get back to my active life that I have always had. I am 72 and wish I would have never let my doctor talk me into taking the drug. I told him in the beginning I didn’t want to take it and learned the hard way. Also I have a son who is 43 and has been put on 2 different statins and has had muscle pain in his legs.

  16. Linda

    Can you just stop taking statins 20mg each night?

    • Nancy

      I’m so furious! Why are Dr’s prescribing this? I can barely walk today, I hurt so bad everywhere, I couldn’t get any sleep because every time I needed to move it hurt so badly that I couldn’t stand it. I’m trying to work because I can’t take time off right now and it’s very difficult. I’m only 47yo. I’m seriously wondering if I have some serious damage…the area where my liver is aches and feels inflamed and my kidney’s have some damage that I was told was caused by diabetes. Oh, I am so angry!

      • gail
        Melbourne vic

        Nancy I know exactly how you feel I came of my statin 3 weeks ago after raking them for 5 months and even though theres some improvements I still get pins and needles on my hips after lying on them in bed mainly on my left side. I also have developed rsi swelling in my left hand and pain in my forearm like nerve damage.When I sit and get up I start limping around like an old wemon. There is a recovery program after taking Statins I advise you read it. Its taken me this long to realise what is going on never again. Drs should be asamed for prescribing these drugs as they can cause heart damage as well. Good luck stay well

    • BillW

      Linda, your doctor is wrong. Statins absolutely can cause muscle pain, etc. But I urge you not to just let the subject drop because this particular statin caused you or your relative muscle pains. You should explore other options to improve your cholesterol profile, probably with a good preventive cardiologist, since your physician obviously hasn’t done his homework regarding statin side effects, and therefore likely doesn’t know the latest therapies either.

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