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Does Vitamin D Improve Chronic Pain?

by Ashley Jordan Ferira, PhD, RDN

The importance of vitamin D in diverse organ systems and biochemical processes is ever-growing with novel research findings. From calcium absorption to extraskeletal health processes such as immune function- vitamin D is essential. The role of vitamin D in pain management is a newer area of investigation that has not been fully established. It is estimated that 25.3 million American adults experience pain every day, with nearly 40 million experiencing some form of extreme pain.1 Annual costs associated with treating pain and pain-related symptoms are estimated to be higher than cancer and diabetes combined, reaching upwards of $600 billion per year.2 The striking number of Americans experiencing pain, combined with the associated financial burdens, underscores the need for clinically efficacious pain management methods.

Chronic non-specific widespread pain (CWP) including fibromyalgia (FMS) is associated with diffuse pain, reduced pain threshold, multiple points of tenderness, disability, and decreased quality of life. To better understand if vitamin D supplementation can significantly impact (CWP) including fibromyalgia (FMS), researchers, performed a systematic review and meta-analysis, the results of which were published in Clinical Rheumatology.3

Researchers comprehensively assessed databases for pertinent vitamin D trials. The authors focused on randomized controlled clinical trials evaluating the effects of vitamin D on CWP and FMS; 4 clinical trials met the inclusion criteria.  After pooling the data from over 270 patients, regression, sensitivity and heterogeneity analyses were evaluated. Visual Analog Scale (VAS) of pain intensity was a major outcome measure.

Pooled results revealed a significantly lower VAS of pain intensity in CWP patients who received vitamin D treatment vs. those who received a placebo control. The analysis concluded that vitamin D supplementation decreased pain scores and improved pain symptoms.

Why is this Clinically Relevant?

  • The personal quality of life and economic burdens associated with chronic pain are immense
  • Supplementation of vitamin D for those with chronic widespread pain, including fibromyalgia, may help with pain management by reducing pain intensity
  • Additional, well-designed trials are needed to further elucidate the roles and pathophysiological mechanisms of vitamin D in pain management; functional status indicators and quality of life improvements should be explored

Reference

Link to abstract

Citations 

  1. NIH analysis shows Americans are in pain. National Institutes of Health. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-analysis-shows-americans-are-pain. Published August 12, 2015. Accessed October 5, 2017.
  2. Relieving pain in America: a blueprint for transforming prevention, care, education, and research. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press; 2011.
  3. Yong WC, Sanguankeo A, Upala S. Effect of vitamin D supplementation in chronic widespread pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Clin Rheumatol. 2017;36(12):2825-2833.

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