By: Diana Orchant, RDN
Chronic pain, whether localized or generalized, is a common and debilitating condition experienced by over 100 million adults in the United States. The healthcare cost of managing chronic pain alone, inclusive of treatment and lost productivity, is upwards of $635 billion annually1. This is more than the healthcare cost of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Not to mention, over 5 million of these patients report using opioids to control their pain, which can often result in downstream effects on the body.
There are increasing amounts of evidence that Vitamin D deficiency is linked to chronic pain conditions and several chronic diseases due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Over 40% of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D2, and the studies defined deficiency as ≤20ng/ml3. Note that the optimal range of vitamin D levels for the prevention of disease and pain management is noted to be 50-70ng/ml. While Vitamin D has many immune-supporting benefits, its deficiency has been linked with a higher risk of chronic pain, as Vitamin D is crucial for the regulation of anti-inflammatory compounds that regulate pain and inflammation3.
In a study that evaluated the effects of Vitamin D supplementation in veterans reporting many areas of chronic pain, participants were provided Vitamin D supplementation based on their serum levels. They were given 1200 IU’s of Vitamin D daily if their initial serum levels were 20-29ng/ml and 50,000 IU’s weekly if their serum levels were below 20ng/ml. After 3 months, pain scores significantly decreased, and the number of areas where the pain was present also decreased3. The participants also experienced improved sleep duration, increased social functioning, and reported having more vitality each day. These findings are not surprising as pain impacts daily life functions, sociality, and sleep.
Low back pain is also a very common issue in the United States, as it is the highest contributor to disability worldwide4. Individuals with low back pain are much more likely to be Vitamin D deficient and the more deficient an individual is, the more severe their pain, according to a study performed in individuals with low back pain in 20185.
These findings correlate with the knowledge that Vitamin D is immune-modulating and anti-
inflammatory. There is an inverse relationship between inflammatory markers and serum vitamin D levels. While not all pain has an inflammatory component, pain and inflammation are very much intertwined, and vitamin D has a systematic effect on inflammation and therefore can temper the pain.
Optimal Vitamin D levels can help prevent and modulate pain levels— the key is testing and working with a practitioner to achieve an optimal dose. This, of course, is just one piece of the greater anti-inflammatory “puzzle”—much of that puzzle being the optimization of diet and lifestyle to reduce overall inflammation in those experiencing chronic pain.
- Gaskin, D. J., & Richard, P. (2012). The economic costs of pain in the united states. Journal of
Pain, 13(8), 715-724. doi:10.1016/j.jpain.
- Forrest, K. Y. Z., & Stuhldreher, W. L. (2011). Prevalence and correlates of vitamin D deficiency in
US adults. Nutrition Research, 31(1), 48-54. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.
- Huang, W., Shah, S., Long, Q., Crankshaw, A., & Tangpricha, V. (2013). Improvement of pain,
sleep, and quality of life in chronic pain patients with vitamin D supplementation. The Clinical
Journal of Pain, 29(4), 341-347. doi:10.1097/AJP.
- Zadro, J., Shirley, D., Ferreira, M., Carvalho-Silva, A. P., Lamb, S. E., Cooper, C., & Ferreira, P. H.
(2017). Mapping the Association between Vitamin D and Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review
and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies. Pain Physician, 20(7), 611–640.
- Gokcek, E., & Kaydu, A. (2018). Assessment of Relationship between Vitamin D Deficiency and
Pain Severity in Patients with Low Back Pain: A Retrospective, Observational Study. Anesthesia,
essays and researches, 12(3), 680–684.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Vitamin D (and supplementation in general) can help manage pain, give us a call. If you prefer, you can also start by filling out the form below.