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Joint Pain And Why It Occurs When You Take To The Drink

Joint Pain And Why It Occurs When You Take To The Drink

Those who are fond of alcohol eventually become familiar with the consequences of having too much in one sitting, such as headaches, heightened sensitivity to light and sound, vertigo, and so on. But beyond these usual symptoms associated with a hangover, you might be surprised to know that excessive drinking can also cause joint pain.


As a refresher, joint pain typically stems from inflammation, and, as luck would have it, alcohol is inflammatory when consumed in excess. This is why joint pain often follows after a couple of beers, and it is more likely to occur among those who have a health condition like rheumatoid arthritis. That said, several factors determine the severity of inflammation and resulting pain that one might experience following a binge drinking session.


A quick refresher on inflammation


Inflammation is an immune response that activates when our bodies detect irritants or foreign substances, causing inflammatory mediators to be released into the bloodstream and transported to the affected area to initiate the healing process. When inflammation sets in, feelings of illness, such as flu-like symptoms or extreme fatigue, naturally follow.


Despite its purpose of healing damage to the body, inflammation does not always do what it is supposed to. This is because the immune system can often mistakenly attack healthy tissues and cause painful inflammation, such as in the case of rheumatoid arthritis. This autoimmune disease mainly involves the immune system attacking healthy cells in the joints, resulting in chronic pain and balancing issues.


Does alcohol trigger inflammation?


Alcohol is among the many foodstuffs that can trigger inflammation; even just a moderate amount of alcohol can incite inflammation in many people for various reasons. Thus, avoiding these food items that can trigger an inflammatory response is vital, especially for those diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. Below are some of the ways alcohol can cause inflammation in the body.


1. Affect immune system functioning


Alcohol can affect the immune system even when consumed in moderation, with many studies showing its disproportionate effects on circulating and tissue-resident myeloid cells (monocytes, granulocytes, dendritic cells, macrophages). These cells coordinate the body’s first line of defence against foreign contaminants and maintain tissue homeostasis and repair. The effects of alcohol on these cells depend on the exposure pattern: acute drinking only dampens their functioning, while chronic drinking enhances the production of inflammatory mediators and increases inflammation.


2. Disrupt sleep


While sleep and joint pain appear unrelated at first glance, fatigue can actually increase joint pain. One of the lesser-known side effects of alcohol is that it suppresses REM sleep, resulting in poor sleep quality.


This is relevant as there are many theories surrounding the relationship between increased inflammation and poor sleep. For example, a theory suggests that the central nervous system cannot function as well when a person does not regularly get a good night’s rest. Another involves several studies discovering that sleep-deprived people have an increased amount of inflammatory markers in their blood.


3. Increase uric acid levels


By increasing uric acid levels in the body, alcohol facilitates uric acid buildup, which increases a person’s risk of developing inflammatory joint conditions. Researchers also believe there may be a link between drinking alcohol and uric acid levels in the synovial fluids among those with osteoarthritis.


Bad habits and joint pain


Alcohol consumption should be carefully managed, given its link between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis joint pain. That said, excessive alcohol is only one of the many bad habits that, when combined, can cause inflammation. These other poor lifestyle choices include:


Bad dietary habits


These include eating foodstuffs that are known to be inflammatory like sugar, meat, fried foods, fatty fish, and overeating.


Leading a sedentary lifestyle


A lack of exercise causes muscles, tendons, and ligaments to weaken and increases the formation of free radicals.




Going beyond a healthy body weight puts additional stress on the joints and results in joint inflammation and degeneration.




One of the harmful effects of smoking includes damaging the cartilage and bones by constricting blood flow and causing other issues that accelerate joint damage.




As discussed, alcohol and joint pain are certainly related, as the latter can trigger inflammation or worsen an existing inflammation. However, reducing alcohol consumption won’t be enough if you continue to practice the other bad habits mentioned above. Therefore, it is recommended to reevaluate all aspects of your lifestyle to mitigate inflammation and joint pain.


If you have turned over a new leaf and developed a healthier lifestyle yet still struggle with joint pain, Affinity Pain Clinic offers comprehensive care and pain management solutions that can bring you relief. With our extensive expertise on many pain conditions and multidisciplinary approach to pain management, you can rest assured that we’ll have the answer to whatever ails you, be it joint pain or musculoskeletal knee pain in Singapore.


For more information, do not hesitate to get in touch with us.


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