The link between vitamin D and chronic pain is strong. So strong that research from the British Society for Rheumatology suggested a deficiency in the vitamin could cause chronic pain.
Researchers studied 2,300 men who participated in the UK’s European Male Ageing Study and found those who began the study with vitamin D deficiencies were two times more likely to report widespread, chronic pain.
Vitamin D supplements help alleviate chronic pain, but maintaining healthy levels can stop pain from developing in the first place.
Vitamin D can be obtained through taking supplements, and eating foods such as eggs, fish, and mushrooms. Some foods, including milk, are fortified with vitamin D. However, researchers say the best way to get vitamin D is through sunlight.
Other scientists have studied the link between chronic pain and seasonal shifts since people tend to get less sunlight during winter months. Research published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition found children suffering from abdominal pain reported worse symptoms in the winter, particularly those living at higher latitudes who receive less sunlight.
Although summertime sunlight often provides people with enough vitamin D, supplements could be necessary during the winter, even if a person eats a diet high in fish and other rich sources of the nutrient, according to research published in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health Care.
Good news: vitamin D supplements may be just as effective as the real thing.
A study published in the journal Pain found women with fibromyalgia experienced relief from pain symptoms by taking vitamin D supplements. Researchers measured the women’s blood levels of vitamin D as opposed to giving each participant standardized doses.
Other studies have found that chronic pain sufferers with low levels of vitamin D needed to take more opioids than patients with normal levels. Recommended blood levels are 50 to 70 nanograms per milliliter.
Dr. Tanya Edwards, medical director at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine, says taking vitamin D supplements can work miracles for patients, particularly those with fibromyalgia. However, people experiencing bone and joint pain could also find relief.
Have you ever tried taking vitamin D to manage chronic pain?
Image by Dawn Ellner via Flickr