How Vitamin D can Affect Pain Levels
For many individuals who experience chronic pain, doctors are unable to find a discernible cause for their symptoms. This leaves many pain sufferers with few treatment options as it is unclear what is causing the pain. Some research suggests that low vitamin D levels may be linked to chronic pain that is unresponsive to treatment.
Vitamin D in Chronic Pain Patients
A 2003 study found that 93% of 150 individuals who visited a community health clinic for chronic pain treatment had deficient vitamin D levels. While healthy levels are about 40 ng/mL, the average level for study participants was 12 ng/mL. Many of those with low levels were white women of childbearing age whose symptoms were dismissed by their doctors.
A subsequent 2009 Mayo Clinic study found that patients with low vitamin D levels required twice as much narcotic pain medication to control their pain as patients with normal vitamin D levels who received a prescription for the same medications. A 2014 study published by the British Society for Rheumatology found links between low vitamin D levels and chronic pain, noting that up to half of British individuals do not get enough vitamin D.
The Role of Vitamin D
While it’s unclear exactly how vitamin D levels affect chronic pain, study authors note that all cells in the body have vitamin D receptors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend eating fatty fish such as salmon and food products fortified with vitamin D, such as cereal, milk, and bread. Exposure to sunlight is also an essential source of this nutrient.
While this research is promising for chronic pain sufferers, other studies have been inconclusive regarding this link. More research still needs to be done, but vitamin D supplementation could be safe, inexpensive, and useful for those whose pain is difficult to treat. Individuals whose doctors have been unable to find a cause for chronic pain symptoms may want to have their vitamin D levels checked, especially in the case of nonspecific musculoskeletal pain.
Researchers say that more evidence is needed to guide clinical practice, including double-blind studies with larger groups of participants. For that reason, taking vitamin D supplements should only be done under the guidance of a physician. Too much vitamin D can lead to complications such as kidney stones.
If your doctor has dismissed your pain as temporary or not warranting medical attention, you may want to get a second opinion. Marc Cohen and the spine experts at Marc Cohen Spine Institute have experience helping the people of the New Jersey area alleviate back pain through patient-specific methods. We can analyze your conditions and help identify the source of your pain. Contact us at one of our many locations to schedule your appointment today.