For sometime now my back has been intensely stiff and my fingers sore. The differential diagnosis list is long (1) but there is one possibility I thought of only this morning. I have not taken CoQ10 for a few weeks. Maybe the snake oil supplement really does work after all.

Urs Truly is very skeptical of over-the-counter supplements, herbals remedies, and nostrums.  The same people who demand purity and quality spend billions of dollars on products with no indication and no regulation. Patients continually announce they are starting some sort of fad remedy their friend is taking. Why? ‘to be healthy’  What’s in it? Don’t know.  Nearly always they take it for awhile, become bored with it, stop it (with no overt benefit) and go onto another one.

I use The Spo rules when considering remedy, whether prescription, herbal, or supplement:

1- Why am I taking this? (is there a specific goal). 

2- How am I going to measure its success?  (other than just feel better)

3- How long do I take it before I determine it is a bust and stop wasting my money. 

If these three questions can’t be answered/measured, the chances of staying on something is not good.

Which gets back to the CoQ10.

My internist in the 90s suggested I take it when I started medication for high cholesterol. He stated the statin would deplete my body of its CoQ10, enough to support taking a supplement of such. Normally I pounce and ask where is the data to support this as coQ10 is very expensive; I didn’t want to shell out mega-bucks for rubbish. But this was coming from the physician, so I assumed his advice was good.

I’ve been on the supplement for decades. Every time I buy another bottle I wonder if it is worth it. Under the adage ‘if it is working don’t tinker with it” I have kept it going. The successor doctors never said to stop it. (2)

Having no time to get to Costco provided me with a hiatus off of coq10. For a few weeks I had forgotten about it other than when packing the weekly pill box.  As stated, in the past week I’ve gotten a lot of aches and pains – due to lack of coq10?

I should buy another bottle and see if there is a correlation. (3)

Until I get my lazy self to Costco I may try some simpler remedy: stretching. Now there’s a thought. It reminds me of a recent patient who announced she was going to take some sort of monkey gland concoction for weight loss when I thought ceasing stuffing herself would work better.


(1) Mosquito-borne illness, tertiary syphilis, exposure to colder air, and old age.

(2) A trade secret: when a doctor hears a patient is taking a supplement they usually keep silent on the subject. Unless there is a danger or a drug interaction, most docs know patients like taking supplements; it makes them feel good to do so. So why tell them there is no evidence to support its worth? The placebo effect is a a powerful thing indeed.  Let’s not knock it.

(3) Of course, if the muscle stiffness is from the pravastatin without Coq10 then another experiment is to stop the statin.  I feel sheepish to do so as it is without MD approval. My patients do this all the time and it makes my eyes cross. I don’t want to be a bad patient.