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Moderate alcohol intake could reduce risk of chronic pain

Alcohol consumption of up to 35 units a week is associated with decreasing risk of chronic widespread pain (CWP) and lower levels of disability, suggests a UK study.

A total of 13,574 people participated (mean 55 years; 57% female) in a UK study, of whom 2,239 (16.5%) had chronic widespread pain (CWP). Participants completed a postal questionnaire on alcohol consumption and were classified according to whether they met the American College of Rheumatology definition of CWP.

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The prevalence of CWP among regular drinkers was 19.8%. Prevalence decreased with increasing alcohol consumption: 13.1% of participants who drank 11-20 units a week or 21-35 units a week had CWP. Prevalence among those drinking more than 35 units and those never consuming alcohol was similar (20.2%).

Among people who reported CWP, disabling pain was strongly related to alcohol consumption. Almost half of those who did not drink regularly (47.2%) had disabling pain, a percentage that decreased with increasing alcohol consumption. Only 18.6% of participants who drank 21-35 units a week had disabling pain.

The evidence does not prove cause and effect, but it warrants further investigation, the authors conclude.

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