Cholesterol Meds Up Risk of Musculoskeletal Disorders

Taking cholesterol-lowering statins could increase your risk of musculoskeletal disorders and joint diseases, new research suggests.

Statins are medications used to reduce blood cholesterol levels in people at risk of heart attacks, strokes, and angina (chest pain). The drugs are frequently prescribed as a preventive measure for older adults, diabetics, and patients with a family history of cardiovascular illnesses. Although statins can lower the risk of heart attacks and death, they can carry musculoskeletal side effects like muscle weakness, muscle cramps, and tendon diseases. However, the full extent of these adverse effects was not well understood.

Researchers from the VA North Texas Health Care System in Dallas analyzed data from the military healthcare system to test whether statins were tied to musculoskeletal conditions. The study included 46,249 patients who were divided into subgroups based on statin use.

Using a statistical analysis that matched statin users to non-statin users, the researchers calculated the odds ratios, or the likelihood that each group would experience musculoskeletal or joint conditions.

People using statins for more than 90 days had a higher odds ratio for musculoskeletal disease, MSK pain, dislocations, strains, and sprains. When it came to joint diseases like osteoarthritis, statin users did not have a higher odds ration than non-statin users, but appeared to still have an elevated risk in other analyses.

"Musculoskeletal conditions, arthropathies, injuries, and pain are more common among statin users than among similar nonusers. The full spectrum of statins' musculoskeletal adverse events may not be fully explored, and further studies are warranted, especially in physically active individuals," the researchers wrote.

They explained that the findings were concerning, given that many people are prescribed statins at an early age to prevent cardiovascular diseases.

Patients could consider discussing non-drug methods of preventing cardiovascular disease with their doctors when possible. Exercise and nutriton won't just lower your risk of heart disease, it could prevent you from the potential risks of drugs.


Mansi I, et al. Statins and musculoskeletal conditions, arthropathies, and injuries. JAMA Inernal Medicine 2013; 1-9. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6184.