rows of yellow mustard on a store shelf, muscle spasms, cramps from statins

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?

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  1. Thomas

    About 10 years or so ago, I heard on your show about the use of yellow mustard for leg cramps. I had been experiencing them on occasion (usually in the middle of the night) so picked up a jar of yellow mustard at the store. At the next occurrence, I took a spoonful and, lo and behold, the cramping went away almost immediately. It has worked every time I’ve used it.

    While at work one day, a co-worker mentioned that she would get leg cramps almost daily. I suggested the mustard treatment, which was received with a raised eyebrow. Figuring she had nothing to lose, she tried it and had the same result. It works.

  2. Chris
    Wausau, WI

    Not sure if anyone is aware, but doctors routinely belittle patients who speak up about statin adverse effects..not side effects, adverse effects in which these are a direct resulting mevalonate blockade, where cholesterol is manufactured along with dozens of other critical to life molecules, such as dilichols, ubiquinone (CoQ10), Squalene, vitamin d, testosterone. Estrogen, sex hormones etc etc.. why so many forget what they learned in pre med biochem, about the critical nature of cholesterol, is beyond me. Dr Beatrice Golomb MD, PhD principal investigator of the UCSD Statins Effects Study, authored a paper titled. “Physician Denial of Statin Adverse Effects”

  3. Flo

    CoQ10 made the statin muscle pain worse. My doctor said that’s because they use the same pathways for digestion and other body processes. My feeling is, if it causes pain, it’s not a medicine, it’s a disease. My dosage is now very very low, but still lowers cholesterol numbers without muscle pain. My cholesterol will never be as low as recommended, but I don’t have to live with pain either.

  4. Christine E D

    I took Metformin for 4 months and had excruciating leg cramps 2 to 3 times a night lasting 5 to 30 minutes. I finally told my doctor that I didn’t want to take the medicine. She asked me to try 1 tablet per day instead of 2. The cramping seemed less painful but still disturbed my sleep 2-3 times per night. I decided to cut the tablet in half for 2 weeks and then stopped. I was left with light leg cramping every so often, something I never experienced prior to taking Metformin. I doubled the Co-Q10, and now the cramping is almost non-existent. I know that at age 67, my body does not absorb Co-Q10 as it used to when I was under 40. Ubiquinol is a form of Co-Q10 that is more easily absorbed by older people, but it is so expensive.

  5. Eugene Joseph M.

    Want to stop cramps? Drop statins for cholesterol, without which you won’t live long.

  6. Carol

    I eat mustard every day, heavy mustard. I put it on everything I eat.

  7. Peg
    Gilbert, AZ

    I cannot (and will not) take statins due to SAMS. Will Red Rice Yeast Cause the same side effects? My doctor recommended trying that. Your advice?

    • Terry Graedon

      Most people do well on Red Yeast Rice even if they can’t tolerate statins. However, some do develop muscle problems while they are taking the supplement.

      • Anne
        New Jersey

        My experience with Red Yeast Rice is that it lowers cholesterol slightly but not as much as a statin does. Red Yeast Rice also caused me muscle problems but again, not as much as a statin. Right now I take nothing to lower my cholesterol. It’s high but I do not have any leg or muscle pain.

  8. Melinda B

    Soon after I began taking statins (about 20 years ago), I read in a national magazine article that statins had recently been proven to cause a reduction in CoQ10 in the human body. As a result, many patients had developed various cardiac and muscle problems, even experiencing heart attacks/strokes. That terrified me, so I asked my doctor if she was aware of it. Her reply: “Yes, that’s true.” I didn’t say it to her face, but I was wondering why she hadn’t warned me before she prescribed it. Crazy! I immediately began taking 100mg of CoQ10 and still do and have had no problems. However, I shudder to think what could have occurred had I not happened to read that article so many years ago.

  9. Richard

    Statins and I are not friends. They caused me to have such severe cramps that my left hand was basically paralyzed for three days, and my left arm hurt as though it were broken. I stopped taking them. I have learned that 25% of people are allergic to statins, and that is no surprise to me. They are pure poison.

    I have spent a good amount of time studying how to combat the cramps that I have been getting since my adolescent years, some 60 years ago. Here are some of my findings. As for mustard, the vinegar in the sauce is the contributor to reset your neuro-receptors located in the back of the throat. I always keep a jar of dill pickle juice on hand in case of cramps and have done so for the last year. I also take 300 mg of Magnesium Glycinate twice a day, as my pain doctor told me it is the only type of magnesium to adequately be absorbed by the body. The lack of magnesium can cause cramps. Pickle juice works in just a minute or two.

    I also keep a bottle of apple cider vinegar with me when I can, such as in my golf bag. The Mayo Clinic and others have recommended placing an Irish Spring soap bar in your bed at night. Since I read that last month or so, I have 2 bars of Irish Spring soap in my bed and have experienced only one small ankle cramp in the last month versus being awakened almost nightly with severe muscle cramps in my legs, sometimes in all the major muscle groups at the same time. Talk about pain! Regular soap bars do not work as well if at all. I have tried both and Irish Spring is the real deal. Something about the chemicals given off in the aroma of this soap is what causes the chemical in the soap to effect the muscles and stop them from cramping. It is certainly a very inexpensive way to combat cramps.

    I also have a prescription for a muscle relaxer which works in the big picture but not well for that instant relief needed when cramps strike. Some people take a few mustard packs from a fast food restaurant and keep them in their pocket for emergency application. i sure would have more than one though. Also, the lack of liquids will cause cramps so stay hydrated.

  10. Carol

    I was prescribed simvastatin several years ago as a preventative because of having type 1 diabeties for a long time. My cholesterol levels have always been very good. After just a short time I developed muscle weakness and eventually a severe rash on my head and hands. I had a difficult time going up stairs and getting out of a chair. Eventually after consulting a dermatologist, and then my family Dr, having a blood test and a muscle biopsy I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis. I am holding my own after about 7 years, but the weakness has never gone away even though the statin was stopped immediately.

  11. Sue

    Please share with your audience that muscle pain when you’re taking a statin can also be a sign of rhabdomyolysis, a serious side effect that damages muscle. A family member of mine had this result, and many others on statins have had the same experience. When he stopped the statin, the muscle pain went away.

    Here’s Mayo Clinic online:
    ”Although mild muscle pain is a relatively common side effect of statins, some people who take statin medications to lower their cholesterol may have severe muscle pain. This intense pain may be a symptom of rhabdomyolysis (rab-doe-my-OL-ih-sis), a rare condition that causes muscle cells to break down.”

  12. Jane H

    It has been more than 2 years since I stopped taking statins (my doctor tried 3 kinds), and I still have weakness and aching in my leg muscles. Not cramps, and it’s mild. My legs don’t ache at night, thank goodness, as they did while I was on the statins. The biggest drawback is that I no longer enjoy walking. I can do it, but it’s not fun any more. My numbers were only borderline high, so the statin was mainly a precaution.

  13. Marie - Sweden

    Don´t worry about your cholesterol!

    There are other views than those you hear most of the time.

    I have never taken statins – nor will I. I remember my mother`s suffering. She had a small heart attack , when she was around 80, and was presribed Zocor.

    I spent quite a few nights in her house and saw her leg cramps, particularly in the evenings/nights. She tried magnesium etc. without success.

    Then, one day, I saw an interesting article in a magazine. It was a discussion about cholesterol and they mentioned the cholesterol sceptic network,
    To make a long story short – my mother stopped with Zocor (=simvastatin) and was lucky to recover from the muscle weakness, aches and cramps in her leg and her sleeping problems.

    She was without statins for more than 15 years when I, to my horror, discovered that she once again had been but on a statin (atorvastatin) when she was 97. I told my mother that it was not her fault and wondered how it could happen. She said – the doctor told me that I had to take the medication!

    Read books and patient stories on this site – and others. Here are some suggstions:
    Screw Ups That Doctors make – And How to Avoid Them (Joe and Theresa Graedon)
    Statins Toxic Side Effects (David Evans)
    The Statin Damage Crisis (Duane Graveline,
    Too many pills (James Le Fanu)
    The Patient Paradox (Margaret McCartney)
    Doctoring Data + a new book which will be published soon (Malcolm Kendrick –
    The Truth about Statins (Barbara H. Roberts)
    Books by Uffe Ravnskov
    Visit and search for different statins. All have similar side effects.

    Wonder Drug That Stole My Memory (article by Chistoper Hudson from 2009 – many comments)
    The Lipitor Paradox (funny but serious utube-clip not just about Lipitor but all statins)

  14. Pat

    I don’t take statins or any meds but do occasionally suffer from leg cramps, and mustard always works in minutes. I carry packs of mustard in my purse at all times.

    • SusanK
      Toronto, Ontario

      Thank you for the link to this follow-up report. People take everything they read on-line as the truth without obtaining further, PROPER follow-up information. The best way to learn the truth about the latest research is to ask your doctor and your — and this is the best way — your PHARMACIST. I would guess that many doctors haven’t the time to read the latest papers and they ‘depend’ on DRUG SALESPEOPLE to ‘inform them.’ (Ha-ha!).

  15. roger
    Fargo ND

    I am occasionally troubled by leg and hand cramps and have found either pickle juice or a tsp of mustard helps right away. I take the mustard before bedtime to be ahead of the game and pickle juice as needed when a cramp occurs.

  16. June

    Going to get some mustard, as 10 mg Crestor make my legs ache during the night.

  17. joan
    torrance CA

    Armour Thyroid also causes muscle cramping over my entire body including my back. I was taking a high dose, and I cut it in half. I may have to switch. I like getting T3 & T4 in one pill but may have to give that up.

    I am finding that medical “diagnosis” skills in physicians are faulty. They depend on tests (it is a defense in a lawsuit) but without diagnosis skills they miss the obvious sometimes. Twice in the last 4 years I have had to diagnose myself. Only then did the doctor take tests to prove me right or wrong, and I was proved correct. They did not use simple diagnosis skills to spot the obvious.

    In one case a severe scabies infestation was diagnosed as an “allergy”! In another case a cartilage tear in the foot was diagnosed as an “inflamed nerve”. Once the correct diagnosis was made treatment made a positive difference within days.

  18. Pam
    Manitoba, Canada

    Do statins ever cause permanent leg pain and weakness? I use a cane most days because my lower back and thighs ache and tire after only a few steps. My Dr suggested I take my Crestor at bedtime to reduce the effect of the muscle pain, but my pain is pretty much constant. Could it still be from the statins? I also have fibromyalgia. Thanks

  19. Sally
    Dallas, TX

    I have used this mustard treatment for years… and it always works. Safe, easy, and inexpensive…and no pharmaceuticals required.

  20. Holly
    Los Angeles

    I am on my third statin, both of the previous ones caused me very painful cramping in my legs. When I started to get those symptoms on this drug (pravastatin 10mg) I stopped taking the drug for a month. When talked with my doctor and we decided to try one last thing before abandoning statins entirely. I had blood tests which confirmed that my lipids had increased about 60 points from being off the statin. I increased my CoQ10 to 150 mg daily and decreased the pravastatin to every other day. Two months later I had my lipids tested again and they had dropped back 50 points. A very small amount seems to make a very significant difference! So far so good, no leg cramps!

  21. Greg
    Rowlett, Tx

    What cholesterol lowering medicine is a good alternative to atorvastatin? I have been on it for almost 5 years, and the leg cramps started getting bad about two years ago. I take a prescribed potassium supplement, as well as over-the-counter magnesium. This worked for a while. Now they are back with a vengance. I’m afraid to get off of the statin long-term, although my Dr. recommended it for at least 2 weeks to see if the cramps subsided.

  22. Gale
    Beaufort, SC

    Joe and Terry,
    Reading this posting about muscle cramps from statins got me to thinking: I was suffering cramps in my hands, legs, feet and even abdominal muscles muscles. I was thrilled when they ‘magically’ went away when I put a thin bar of soap under the bed sheet. But recently they returned with a vengeance. Why? Perhaps they actually resolved when I stopped taking fish oil capsules, after reading fish oil is not proven to reduce death by cardiovascular disease. Recently I resumed taking fish oil hoping to decrease arthritis pain in my hands and feet andpreserve cognitive function and after a week or so of taking just1000mg per day (300 mg omega-3) the cramps are back. Now I will stop the supplement again and see if the cramps resolve. Your thoughts?

  23. Rocky

    I have been taking lisinopril and simvastatin for several years. Four years ago several months after back surgery I developed a terrible burning sensation in my foot that has gone into my leg and back. It feels like standing in the hottest pan of hot water and is 24/7 and never get any relief from it. I have seen Neurologists, Orthopedic and Internal Medicine doctors including many tests and no one has been able to resolve my problem. They tell me it is not neuropathy as I have no loss of use of foot or hand or tingling on that side. Does anyone else have that problem?

  24. Bill
    Barnhart, Mo.

    I took a teaspoon of mustard prior to a ride on the motorcycle. After about 20 miles my forearms and hands cramped so badly I had to get off the road. Should I have taken the mustard after the cramps started? The doctor cannot find anything wrong with my hands. Due to a kidney problem potassium is off my diet. Any suggestions to help me get back on my bike?

  25. sidonia schumann
    fayetteville fort bragg nc

    I have taken spoonfulls of dill pickle juice and also yellow mustard in the middle of the night when awakened by pain. They contain turmeric in pure form, explaining their helpfulness.

  26. ME

    For more then 2 years I am taking daily Ultra CoQ10. Almost 2 months ago doctor prescribed me Lipitor. Within few days I started feeling probably all possible side effects the medicine could give me. No relief from CoQ10 at all. I felt weak, tired, dizzy to the point I had difficulty walking straight and had muscle pains in all my body. I felt like a zombie, unable to function. Diuretic medication Losartan (several recalls) did not help to `my condition either. I made decision on my own: very gradually I lowered my daily dosage of both prescriptions. Finally a week after I stopped taking them I feel normal again. I thought that medications should make feel us better and healthier, not sicker.

  27. Kirk
    St. Paul

    It’s funny, about a week or so ago it occured to me I haven’t had an episode of leg cramping since I quit taking statin drugs. Then this article appears. The more I read about these drugs the more scary they become. Seeing the numbers given of prescriptions filled, I can only imagine the incentive to downplay the growing list of negatives that accompany these drugs. Huge money is involved. I’m not accusing doctors, but I think many have made up their mind these are beneficial, and don’t want to hear this stuff isn’t what it has been cracked up to be. To me the risk versus benefit is too great anymore.

  28. Tbyrd

    I don’t take statins but I do get foot cramps and a spoonful of yellow mustard fixes it every time within minutes.

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