Millions of people take statins to lower their cholesterol levels.Here are just a few examples of the numbers of prescription filled each year: atorvastatin= 97 million; simvastatin= 65 million; pravastatin= 25 million; rosuvastatin= 20 million; lovastatin= 11 million. That’s a combined total of 218 million prescriptions annually. Consequently, a large number of people report experiencing muscle cramps from statins. Frequently these spasms affect the large muscles of the legs, although some people have difficulty with toe, finger or forearm cramps. What can you do to ease these symptoms when they occur?
Cramps from Statins:
Q. “My doctor prescribed a statin to lower my cholesterol. Then I began suffering horrendous cramps in my ankles, toes and calves. Later I heard on your radio show that statins can cause muscle cramps.
“I checked with my doctor and stopped taking the statin. Miraculously, my cramps subsided to almost nothing. During the same radio show, I heard that mustard alleviates cramps within a few minutes. Lo and behold, the next time I got a cramp I swallowed some mustard. I do not know what I would do without this unbelievable home remedy. I keep a bottle of French’s mustard in my medicine cabinet.”
A. What you experienced has a name: SAMS (statin-associated muscle symptoms). They include muscle pain, muscle weakness, muscle cramps and muscle tiredness.
More Stories About Cramps from Statins:
Chuck reports a somewhat similar story until…
“My cardiologist thinks I am crazy. He doesn’t like it if I say anything negative about atorvastatin. I’ve been on again/off again with it for several years.
“I really haven’t noticed anything major one way or the other. However, when I did get off it for a while, my severe nighttime leg cramping stopped. Getting off the atorvastatin no longer works to relieve the cramping as my small fiber peripheral neuropathy is getting worse. That is another condition I have to deal with.”
What Chuck’s cardiologist may not have mentioned is that statins have been linked to neuropathy (nerve damage). An article in Neuro Endocrinology Letters (Vol. 32 (5), 2011) reports:
Objectives: “To confirm the changes in the results of EMG assessment of lower-limb peripheral nerves in patients treated with statins in the longer follow-up period of 3 years.
Conclusions: “The study confirmed that long-term treatment with statins caused a clinically silent but still definite damage to peripheral nerves when the treatment lasts longer than 2 years.”
Many physicians may not realize that peripheral neuropathy is listed as a potential adverse reaction in the official atorvastatin prescribing information.
Richard reports similar cramps from statins:
“In February of this year my doctor changed me to atorvastatin. He believed it would be more effective for lowering cholesterol that my old drug. A couple of months later I started developing severe leg cramps. They woke me from sleep every morning. I also developed painful finger cramps the would cause both of my index fingers to lock at a 90 degree angle relative to my hands, and would not subside for several minutes.
“Nothing seemed to help, including the cold packs my doctor recommended. One day I was doing a web search in attempt to determine the cause for the leg and hand cramps. Atorvastatin was mentioned as a possible issue. I did a trial vacation from taking the medication for a couple of weeks. The leg and finger cramps totally went away within one day. The doctor insists that the change wasn’t due to the medication.
Is CoQ10 An Antidote to Cramps from Statins?
A recent meta-analysis of 12 randomized controlled trials found that coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) supplements eased SAMS better than placebo (Journal of the American Heart Association, Oct. 2, 2018).
What About Mustard for Cramps?
You are not the first person to report that a spoonful of yellow mustard can relieve muscle cramps quickly. We suspect that this remedy works by stimulating sensory nerves in the mouth, throat and stomach. This in turn overrides the hyperactive neuronal stimulation causing the cramp.
You can read more about the science behind this home remedy and many others in our eGuide to Favorite Home Remedies.
Share your Story:
What has been your experience with statins and muscle cramps? Has Coenzyme Q10 helped? What about yellow mustard?