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Updated on February 28, 2023
4 min read

Alcoholic Myopathy - Symptoms, Causes, Treatment & Prevention

What is Alcoholic Myopathy?

Long-term or heavy alcohol intake can take a toll on your health.

Alcoholic myopathy is an alcohol-induced health condition that causes weakness and dysfunction of the skeletal muscle. It affects the muscle fibers and muscle tissue.

Alcoholic myopathy is otherwise known as alcoholic muscle disease or alcoholic skeletal muscle dysfunction.2 It’s a common condition in people with alcohol addictions.

Myopathy is caused by abnormalities in the functioning or metabolism of the muscles’ cells. Drinking too much alcohol is among many causes of muscle dysfunction or metabolism abnormalities.

Alcoholic myopathy can cause debilitating muscle pain. You’ll also likely experience muscle weakness and other alcohol-related symptoms.4 

What Are the Types of Alcoholic Myopathy?

Alcoholic myopathy is considered a toxic type that can be acute or chronic.2

Acute alcoholic myopathy and chronic alcoholic myopathy are common among people who struggle with binge drinking or alcohol use disorders.3, 4

Between about 0.5 and 2% of people who struggle with alcoholism experience acute alcoholic myopathy. Meanwhile, 200 of the 100,000 of the general population develop chronic alcoholic myopathy.5

How Does Alcoholic Myopathy Affect Muscles?

Alcoholic myopathy affects the muscles in a few ways: 

  • Weakens muscle strength
  • Reduces muscle mass
  • Impairs muscle function
  • Causes skeletal muscle atrophy

Alcohol adversely affects your anabolic and catabolic pathways for maintaining muscle mass. It can cause proinflammatory and oxidative milieu in your skeletal muscle, which is the leading cause of alcoholic myopathy.

Over time, this can decrease your muscles’ regenerative capacity. As a result, you lose muscle mass and strength. Losing muscle mass and strength can also lead to other health issues. If you lack the strength to exercise, this can affect your heart, lungs, and more.

It’s important to treat alcoholic myopathy to stop it from leading to even more health problems.


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What Causes Alcoholic Myopathy?

Alcohol research suggests that alcoholic myopathy is caused by drinking too much or too often. Heavy alcohol use can cause alcoholic myopathy, such as during binge drinking. Prolonged heavy use of alcohol can cause chronic alcoholic myopathy.

Because alcohol use disorder (AUD) affects about 15 to 20 million people in the United States, alcoholic myopathy isn’t uncommon. But there are ways to prevent it from happening to you.

How Much Alcohol Causes Myopathy?

Alcohol can cause myopathy after just a few drinks in one sitting. Drinking even more alcohol, or drinking a lot of alcohol very often, can make alcoholic myopathy even worse.

Over time, such as several weeks to months of regular heavy drinking, chronic alcoholic myopathy can develop.

What are the Symptoms of Alcoholic Myopathy? 

The symptoms of alcoholic myopathy range in severity, depending on the person and how much or often they drink.

Some common symptoms of alcoholic myopathy in people with alcoholism include the following.2

  • Loss of muscle mass (atrophy)
  • Weakening of the muscles
  • Muscle cramps
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Muscle twitching, tics, or spasms
  • Dark urine
  • Sensitivity to heat

Another more serious symptom of alcoholic myopathy is cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathy is the weakening of the heart muscle, which causes the heart to not function properly.

Some long-term symptoms of alcoholic myopathy include potentially fatal heart problems:

  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Arrhythmia

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Treatment for Alcoholic Myopathy

Treating alcoholic myopathy involves abstaining from alcohol consumption. The only surefire way to make alcoholic myopathy go away is by not drinking anymore.

If you’re struggling with alcohol addiction, quitting isn’t easy. Alcohol withdrawal is real and can even be deadly.

Seek professional help to cut back on or quit drinking alcohol and improve your body’s ability to function how it should. 


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How to Prevent Alcoholic Myopathy

Here are some tips to prevent alcoholic myopathy.

  • If you’re going to drink, only consume a moderate amount of alcohol. This means no more than two drinks in a day for men and one drink or less in a day for women.1
  • Pay mind to binge drinking behaviors. Even if you don’t drink so often, drinking too much at once can become problematic.
  • If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, which could trigger your alcohol use, seek help. Therapy can help you identify the triggers that drive you to drink and find healthy coping mechanisms.
  • If you drinktoo much or too often, also seek professional help. Rehab and therapies exist so you don’t have to navigate the road to recovery alone.

Ultimately, the best way to treat alcoholic myopathy is to stop or severely cut back on drinking.

Does Alcohol Myopathy Go Away?

In most cases, you can reverse alcohol myopathy. Reversing acute alcohol myopathy is easier than reversing chronic alcohol myopathy.

Acute alcoholic myopathy tends to resolve within a week or so. Chronic alcoholic myopathy, however, can take weeks or months to go away.


Alcohol myopathy, acute and chronic, is a serious health concern. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol abuse or alcoholism, reach out for professional help. You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) try to quit drinking alcohol alone.

Updated on February 28, 2023
5 sources cited
Updated on February 28, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Alcohol Questions and Answers.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  2. Alcoholic Myopathy.” Alcoholic Myopathy. The New England Journal of Medicine.
  3. Lafair, Joel S. “Alcoholic Myopathy.” Archives of Internal Medicine, JAMA Network.
  4. P.G.Lynch, Author links open overlay, et al. “Alcoholic Myopathy.” Journal of the Neurological Sciences, Elsevier.
  5. Simon, Liz, et al. “Alcoholic Myopathy: Pathophysiologic Mechanisms and Clinical Implications.” Alcohol Research : Current Reviews, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2017.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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