The Effects of Alcohol on Muscles & Joints

The Effects of Alcohol on Muscles & Joints

Alcohol is one such substance that can lead to lasting damage.

Our muscles and joints are responsible for our body movements, and when they are impaired or not working as efficiently as they should be, it can mean big trouble.

How Alcohol Affects the Muscular System

With time, the toxins in alcohol can cause damage to muscles and joints. With more frequent drinking, these problems can persist and become serious.

Some of the possible effects of alcohol on muscles include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle pain
  • Muscle cramps
  • Decreased muscle efficiency
  • Arthritis
  • Type II muscle fiber atrophy
  • Alcohol-induced rhabdomyolysis

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Muscular System

The damage will depend a lot on the amount of alcohol regularly consumed, the presence of an alcohol abuse disorder, and length of time of this condition. As an Illinois alcohol addiction rehab, we understand that for many alcoholics these effects may seem harmless and worth it, but the long-term effects of alcohol on muscles can be much more severe.


Alcohol’s effects on the joints and muscles may extend to arthritis for some people. Arthritis is the result of inflamed joints and can make movement painful. While moderate drinking has been found to reduce the risk of developing arthritis, heavy drinking can cause more inflammation that may agitate rheumatoid arthritis and gout. 5

Type II Muscle Fiber Atrophy

A possible long-term effect of alcohol on the muscular system is type II muscle fiber atrophy. Type II muscle fibers are considered fast-twitch muscle fibers that are anaerobic. They are used for faster reactions but fatigue easily. Atrophy is the gradual decrease in muscle mass and strength that can make movements harder. In one study of chronic alcoholics, 33% of them had type II muscle fiber atrophy.4 This condition can lead to noticeably impaired movements, especially after an extended time of alcohol abuse.

Alcohol-Induced Rhabdomyolysis

Rhabdomyolysis is the breakdown of muscles. Because of alcohol’s effects on muscle tissues, one of the major causes of rhabdomyolysis is chronic alcohol use. In one study, as many as 67% of nontraumatic rhabdomyolysis cases involved alcohol.1 Not only does it leave a person weak, but this condition also includes the release of myoglobin, a damaging protein, into the bloodstream that can harm the kidneys. Early detection of rhabdomyolysis can minimize the damage.

Some signs of alcohol-induced rhabdomyolysis include:

  • Extreme muscle pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Dark urine
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness

Thankfully, some of the alcohol effects on the joints and muscles may be reversed. Studies found that abstinence from alcohol after an alcohol detox led to improvements in muscle functions in many subjects.2 Unfortunately, the longer and more severe the drinking problem, the less likely that this is true. For example, catching and treating rhabdomyolysis early can help people avoid more serious damage, but a late diagnosis could lead to permanent kidney damage.3

At our Gilman medical detox center, we help people stop drinking or using drugs so that they can move forward with their lives. Addiction can have lasting negative physical effects on the body, so it is better to stop early.

If you or a loved one has a drinking or drug problem, act now. Call us today at 888-280-4763 to learn more about our programs at Banyan Heartland.


  1. JABFM - Nontraumatic Rhabdomyolysis with Long-Term Alcohol Intoxication
  2. NCBI - Alcoholic skeletal myopathy, a clinical and pathological study.
  3. NCBI - Acute kidney injury due to rhabdomyolysis and renal replacement therapy: a critical review
  4. NCBI - Significance of type II fiber atrophy in chronic alcoholic myopathy.
  5. Medical News Today - How does alcohol affect rheumatoid arthritis?
Alyssa who is the National Director of Digital Marketing, joined the Banyan team in 2016, bringing her five-plus years of experience. She has produced a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. Through strategic marketing campaign concepts, Alyssa has established Banyan as an industry leader and a national household name.