Excessive alcohol consumption can trigger peripheral nerve damage, harm nutrient absorption, and contribute to dehydration, all of which can worsen joint pain.
It’s also worth noting that alcohol consumption has shown some benefits in protecting against rheumatoid arthritis.
How Alcohol Contributes to Joint Pain
Alcohol consumption is one of several lifestyle factors with the potential to contribute to joint pain. First, continued alcohol consumption can cause peripheral nerve damage, with the alcohol wearing away the protective sheathing of nerve cells.
There’s also evidence that alcohol affects the gut’s ability to absorb and process certain nutrients, which makes managing joint disease more difficult, as this can make diet changes less effective. Finally, alcohol is also a diuretic, meaning it can cause a person to become dehydrated, which can worsen joint pain due to worsened joint lubrication.
As discussed more below, alcohol can also negatively contribute to or impact chronic joint and bone problems.
Joint & Bone Conditions That Can Be Affected by Alcohol
Some joint and bone conditions that can be affected by alcohol consumption include the following:
Alcohol consumption can affect bone health, potentially leading a person to develop osteopenia. More specifically, it’s been found that “alcohol has a dose-dependent toxic effect in promoting imbalanced bone remodeling,” which can then lead to osteopenia.
Osteopenia is when a person’s bones are less dense than is considered healthy. This makes them weaker than they should be, and it is an established risk factor for osteoporosis.
One of the more complicated topics to discuss when it comes to how alcohol consumption can affect joints is its impact on rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Alcohol has been shown to have both a positive and negative impact on a person’s risk of RA, with at least one study concluding that it seemed to provide an overall observable and measurable protection against RA.
With that said, the Arthritis Foundation urges caution around alcohol. You should first get your doctor’s permission to drink and keep your drinking to one drink a day or less. Also note that many medications used to treat arthritis interact badly with alcohol.
Drinking is generally ill-advised if a person already has gout. Gout attacks can occur when someone consumes purine-rich food and drink, with beer containing a significant amount of purines.
One study found that whether a person with gout drank wine, beer, or liquor, they saw an increased risk of a gout attack. The risk of an attack increased with heavier alcohol consumption.
Long-Term Health Effects of Alcohol Abuse
Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with a variety of potential long-term health effects, many of which can be quite serious. Some of the health risks worth highlighting include a higher risk of the following:
- Alcohol use disorder (AUD), often just called alcoholism or alcohol addiction
- Learning and memory problems
- Mental health problems, like depression and anxiety disorders
- A weakened immune system
- Social problems, including issues at home, work, or school
- Cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, breast, voice box, colon, liver, and rectum
- High blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke
- Liver disease and digestive issues
If you choose to drink, experts recommend limiting your intake to two drinks or less in a day for men or one drink or less in a day for women on the days you consume alcohol. A standard drink contains 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol and is generally equivalent to the following:
- 12-ounces of beer
- 8-ounces of malt liquor
- 5-ounces of wine
- 1.5-ounces of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor
Getting Help for Alcohol Abuse
If you struggle with alcohol abuse and want to stop your drinking, seek help from an addiction treatment program. Most people need help to recover from alcohol use disorder (AUD).
Addiction professionals can help you identify what is driving you to drink and work with you to form a treatment plan, so you can start to gain control over your drinking. Once you identify underlying thoughts that lead to alcohol abuse, you can aim to change them and change the resulting behavior.
Addiction treatment programs like the one we offer can help you reduce your drinking in several different ways. At Boca Recovery Center, we can help you medically detox from alcohol and build the skills to resist alcohol abuse in a controlled, residential treatment setting. You may also benefit from our outpatient treatment program, where you spend some of your week in treatment and otherwise can live life as normal, living at home.
There is no single treatment path that works for everyone. The best approach for you will be individualized. Most people work toward increasing amounts of autonomy as they build the skills to resist alcohol abuse and progressively need less support to avoid drinking.
Contact us today to learn more about our offerings and how we can help you avoid physical, mental, and life issues related to alcohol abuse.
- The surprising link between alcohol and joint pain PMIR. Published May 10, 2023. Accessed September 20, 2023
- Luo Z, Liu Y, Liu Y, Chen H, Shi S, Liu Y. Cellular and molecular mechanisms of alcohol-induced osteopenia. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2017;74(24):4443-4453. doi:10.1007/s00018-017-2585-y
- Alcohol and arthritis Arthritis Foundation. Accessed September 20, 2023.
- Neogi T, Chen C, Niu J, Chaisson C, Hunter DJ, Zhang Y. Alcohol quantity and type on risk of recurrent gout attacks: an internet-based case-crossover study. Am J Med. 2014;127(4):311-318. doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2013.12.019
- Alcohol use and your health Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published April 14, 2022. Accessed September 20, 2023