If Your Pain Treatments Don’t Work, This Could Be Why

Dr. Frank Shallenberger, MD

April 22, 2019



Do you have chronic pain that just won’t go away? Have you tried all of the pain drugs, both over-the-counter and prescription, but still have little relief? Have you even tried some alternative treatments, such as my favorite Prolozone, only to experience partial relief? If this describes you, it’s quite possible there’s another cause of your pain.

This is what happened to Lois.

Lois came to see me last year for severe shoulder and lower back pain.

Her doctor told her that her osteoarthritis was causing the pain. His solution, not surprisingly, was to take drugs. In this case, Lois was taking ibuprofen every day. But Lois was not one of your everyday back pain patients. She had severe pain. Her pain was so bad, she was essentially house ridden. She couldn’t drive, and could just barely get around.

Her husband heard about how effective Prolozone® is for pain. (You can learn about Prolozone on my website www.secondopinionnewsletter.com.) So he brought her in for an evaluation. I examined her, and looked at her X-rays.

Lois had degenerative changes in her spine and her discs. This is just the kind of damage that often responds well to Prolozone. I was convinced I could help her. So I scheduled her to come in for treatments every two weeks.

When Prolozone Doesn’t Work

Six Prolozone treatments later, she was 60% better. But despite the definite improvement, there was still a lingering pain that just did not seem to get better. That’s when I decided to dig deeper. That’s when I remembered that her doctor had prescribed a statin drug for her.

I asked her when the pains started. She said about 12 years ago. I asked her when her doctor started her on the statin drug. She said about 12 years ago. I then asked her if she ever told her doctor that she was having all the pain. She said she did. But he did not think it was caused by the drug because the blood test (probably a creatine phosphokinase test) was normal. So she just continued to take the drug, and attributed her worsening condition to arthritis.

Her doctor was wrong. And researchers now have the evidence to prove it.

The Real Impact of Statin Drugs — Worse Than We Thought

Doctors have always known that statin drugs damage muscles, often permanently. But the drug companies’ PR departments have always insisted that this complication is rare. Now, a new study shows that the damage that these drugs cause happens much more often than anyone previously imagined. And it gets worse.

The study also shows that the blood test that doctors have always relied upon has problems. The researchers found that the test isn’t accurate.

Here’s what all of this means to you. If you’re on a statin drug and have any discomfort at all in any part of your body, it’s likely the drug is causing your pain. And this is true even if your doctor insists that the tests indicate the drug isn’t the problem!

The authors of the study start their report by saying, “Many patients taking statins often complain of muscle pain and weakness. The extent to which muscle pain reflects muscle injury is unknown.” Doctors and patients often dismiss muscle pain associated with statin therapy as a minor adverse effect. But is it? That’s what these researchers planned to find out.

They looked at a total of 83 patients. Of those, 44 were on statins, and were complaining of muscle pains. Another 19 were on the drugs and had no complaints at all. They held the other 20 patients out as controls – they were not using statin drugs. All of the patients underwent a muscle biopsy.

A muscle biopsy is where a doctor will use a needle to pierce the muscle in the front of the thigh and collect a tissue sample. Then they examined the muscle tissue under a microscope. They looked for changes that would indicate damage to the muscle fibers. Here’s what they discovered.

Of the 44 patients who complained of pain, 25 suffered significant damage to their muscle tissue. That’s a whopping 57%! Why didn’t they all show signs of muscle injury? It probably was because either they had not been taking the drugs long enough for the effects to show up, or their particular genetics tolerated the muscle damaging effects of the statin drugs. But here’s the real kicker.

The blood test that’s used by doctors to determine if patients on statin drugs have muscle damage is called a creatine phosphokinase test. Of those 25 patients with known muscle damage, 96% had levels of creatine phosphokinase that doctors consider acceptable. Only one had a positive test.

“Nothing Is Wrong With You” – Or So They Say

If this study is any indication of what is going on in general, it has serious ramifications. It means that if you’re taking statins and they’re destroying your muscles, there’s a 96% chance your doctor will tell you nothing is wrong. But that’s still not all.

Remember, the 19 patients taking the statin drugs that did not have muscle pain? Surely these patients do not need to worry about muscle damage. After all, how could you have significant damage to your muscle tissue and not feel it?

Well, it turns out that you can. Even patients who take these drugs and have no pain at all are not safe. In this study, 5% of these patients had biopsies showing muscle damage.

What’s more, the damage these drugs cause appears to be permanent. That’s right! It may never come back to normal. The researchers in this study noted that the rate of significant muscle damage was similar no matter whether a patient was still taking the drug (16 of 29, about 55%), or had stopped it (9 of 15, about 60%).

The researchers also concluded that the results may be an underestimate of the actual extent of muscle damage. That's because some of the biopsies may have been taken at the site of unaffected muscles.

So here’s the point: Right now, in cities all over the U.S., thousands of people have damaged their muscles by taking statin drugs, sometimes permanently – and they don’t even know it!

Back to Lois

Lois was one of these thousands of people with damaged muscle tissue. So I talked her into stopping the drug for a few months just to see what happened.

Lois was a little leery at first. Like so many patients, her doctor had convinced her that stopping the drug was dangerous. But I explained to her that the studies show that statin drugs, when taken by patients like her without any history of heart disease, save only one out of every 100 patients taking them. That means she was suffering from very serious pain for virtually no benefit. Once she realized how ineffective the drug actually was, she had no problem at all stopping it.

I saw her six weeks later. The same lady who had so much pain that she could hardly walk into my treatment room without help was a different person. When I went to the waiting room to call her, she jumped right up from the waiting-room chair and marched down the hall. She had a great big smile on her face, and said that her pain was almost completely gone. She was not taking any pain medicines, and was now driving without difficulty. I asked her if she was interested in restarting the statin drug “just to see,” but she was not buying. Both of us were completely convinced that the drug had played a big role in her suffering all those years.

What most people don’t realize is that studies, such as the ones authored by Dean Ornish, MD, have already proven that you can clean off the cholesterol-laden plaque on arteries with diet and exercise. What’s more, these studies show that a solid diet and exercise program will save the lives of over 95% of those people with high cholesterol. So why would anyone want to take a dangerous drug that saves only 1%?

If you are taking statins, now is the time to get off of them. There are much better ways to protect your heart – ways that actually protect your heart without damaging your body. You can read all about these on my website.


Daubenmier, J.J., G. Weidner, M.D. Sumner, N. Mendell, T. Merritt-Worden, J. Studley, and D. Ornish. “The contribution of changes in diet, exercise, and stress management to changes in coronary risk in women and men in the multisite cardiac lifestyle intervention program.” Ann Behav Med. 2007 February;33(1):57-68.

Dewell, A., G. Weidner, M.D. Sumner, C.S. Chi, and D. Ornish. “A very-low-fat vegan diet increases intake of protective dietary factors and decreases intake of pathogenic dietary factors.” J Am Diet Assoc. 2008 February;108(2):347-56.

Frattaroli, J., G. Weidner, T.A. Merritt-Worden, S. Frenda, and D. Ornish. “Angina pectoris and atherosclerotic risk factors in the multisite cardiac lifestyle intervention program.” Am J Cardiol. 2008 April 1;101(7):911-8. Epub 2008 January 28.

Mohaupt, M.G., et al. “Association between statin-associated myopathy and skeletal muscle damage,” CMAJ 2009; 181: E11- E18.

Pischke, C.R., G. Weidner, M. Elliott-Eller, and D. Ornish. “Lifestyle changes and clinical profile in coronary heart disease patients with an ejection fraction of <or=40% or >40% in the Multicenter Lifestyle Demonstration Project.” Eur J Heart Fail. 2007 September;9(9):928-34. Epub 2007 June 14.

Pischke, C.R., G. Weidner, M. Elliott-Eller, L. Scherwitz, T.A. Merritt-Worden, R. Marlin, L. Lipsenthal, R. Finkel, D. Saunders, P. McCormac, J.M. Scheer, R.E. Collins, E.M. Guarneri, and D. Ornish. “Comparison of coronary risk factors and quality of life in coronary artery disease patients with versus without diabetes mellitus.” Am J Cardiol. 2006 May 1;97(9):1267-73. Epub 2006 March 10.

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