Fibromyalgia is a complicated pain condition that affects mental well-being, energy levels and overall quality of life. A healthy lifestyle is part of any pain managements plan; you may think this means skipping the alcohol. However, the results of one large study suggest that those who drink moderately have better symptom measurements than those who abstain.

Two main tests are used to measure severity of symptoms in fibromyalgia patients: the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ), which measures specifically fibromyalgia-related symptoms, and the SF-36, which measure the impact of health conditions on overall quality of life; the latter test has a physical and a mental component. Lower scores on the FIQ indicate less severe symptoms, whereas higher scores means higher quality of life on the SF-36.

Out of 948 patients in this study, 58% did not drink at all. Researchers categorized drinkers by the number of drinks consumed per week. Those who arrested were put in the “none” category. Those who consumed less than 3 drinks a week were put in the “low” category, those who drank 3-7 drinks a week, in the “moderate” category, and those who drank more than 7, in the “high” category. FIQ and SF-36 scores were compared for all categories.

FIQ scores were similar for the none-drinking, low and high groups, ranging from 61-65, but the average group scored a 54.7. This gives the moderate group more than a 10-point advantage over non-drinkers' average score, which was 65.1. Two significant areas in which moderate drinkers saw improvement over the other groups were pain and work-related measures. Pain scores for none, low and high groups ranged from 7.0-7.3, but the moderate group measured 5.6. The moderate group measured a 2.5 for “missed work days,” compared to scores ranging from 3.5-4.7 in the other groups, with the highest being the non-drinking group. “Job ability” scores ranged from 6.5-7.1 for other groups (again with the highest score in the non-drinking group), but was at 5.8 for moderate drinkers.

Results of the SF-36 revealed additional support in favor of alcohol consumption, both for moderate and high drinkers. This test found that there was no significant difference in mental health between the groups, but confirmed the physical discrepancies shown from the other questionnaire. Physical functioning scores were 51.1 and 51.5 for moderate and high drinkers, respectively, compared to 35.5 for non-drinkers and 42.4 for low drinkers. This result in no way encourages heavy drinking; let's recall that the study defined “high” drinking rates as more than 7 drinks a week. There's a big difference between 8 drinks and 30 drinks a week.

See more on the study at http://arthritis-research.com/content/15/2/R42 .

A Gallup poll from 2012 tells us that 66% of Americans drink. It's interesting to note that only 42% of those with fibromyalgia in this study were drinkers. This suggests that people with fibromyalgia feel a need to abstain from drinking with the idea that alcohol could worsen their symptoms. This study suggests that, on the contrary, moderate, responsible drinking may help manage pain and live an overall better-adjusted life.

If you have fibromyalgia, your condition is no reason to abstain from that glass of wine at dinner. Consider moderate consumption not only safe, but potentially beneficial.