Vitamin D Deficiency and Pain

Updated on June 19, 2017
nifwlseirff profile image

Kymberly has managed many chronic illnesses for 25+ years, including sciatica, costochondritis, fibromyalgia, PTSD, endometriosis, and more.

Scientists are still untangling the riddle of chronic pain. Everyone who suffers chronic pain has different symptoms and triggers. A treatment that works for one person may not work for another person.

It is frustrating for the chronic pain sufferers—they must test a large number of treatments to find the ones that help them the most. And this may change over time. It's also frustrating for the scientists and doctors, as there seems to be no single cause and therefore no single treatment.

In the last five years, increasingly more research has been performed into vitamin D levels in sufferers of chronic pain, specifically those with fibromyalgia syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and costochondritis. Some of these studies have shown that those with chronic pain have reduced vitamin D levels, but they don't yet understand why.

A recently published study from April 2014 highlighted that 92% of chronic pain sufferers have low or extremely low vitamin D levels.

Although it has not yet been proven that increased vitamin D intake reduces pain, the longer-term benefits of maintaining a stable normal level of vitamin D, after being diagnosed with a deficiency, is a good reason that doctors recommend that chronic pain sufferers take supplements.

Sunlight provides some vitamin D, but not enough for chronic pain sufferers.
Sunlight provides some vitamin D, but not enough for chronic pain sufferers. | Source

Chronic pain

Pain becomes chronic when it persists for more than 3-6 months, although some doctors classify it as chronic pain only after 12 months. There is often no obvious physical sign of the pain, and sufferers are often told it's all in their head.

Chronic pain can be caused by such a multitude of diseases and physical problems. Nerve problems, brain chemistry problems, inflammation and joint pain, breakages, viruses, even past injuries - almost anything can cause long term pain.

Each person's journey through diagnosing and living with chronic pain, finding treatments that help them manage, will be different. Some researchers are looking at how vitamins may affect how a person's brain perceives pain, as it seems that chronic pain sufferers often have different levels of vitamins to people who are 'healthy'.

There are theories that vitamin D is used faster for those in chronic pain as their immune systems are under constant stress. But this has not yet been proven.

Elliot Krane: The mystery of chronic pain

Vitamin D3
Vitamin D3 | Source

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important for healthy bone growth and repair. It plays an important role in preventing osteoporosis as we age.

Levels are tested by taking a blood sample. Each laboratory may use a different testing method, and the 'normal' range for reference is included in the blood test report.

Vitamin D is created in the kidneys, from foods that we eat. Foods higher in vitamin D include:

  • fatty fish such as catfish, salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, tuna, and oysters
  • fish liver oils
  • shiitake, portabella and other types of mushrooms, when grown in sunlight or under UV lights
  • whole eggs

Organic, backyard eggs - a good source of vitamin D, and healthy too.
Organic, backyard eggs - a good source of vitamin D, and healthy too. | Source

Recommended vitamin D intake

The recommended intake from food or supplements varies between countries.

The range of recommended levels start from the European Union's 200 IU/Day (5.0 μg/day), to Canada's recommendation for those over 70 to have 800 IU/day (20 μg/day).

For adults, including those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, the upper 'safe' limit is set at 4,000 IU (100 μg/day). Taking more than 50,000 IU/day (250µg/day) risks vitamin D poisoning, however, this is unlikely to happen without tablet supplementation.

In recent years, many health professionals have claimed that vitamin D deficiency is on the rise, thanks to longer working hours spent indoors.

Vitamin D deficiency

When a person's diet does not contain enough vitamin D, and they do not have enough skin-exposure to sunlight, then vitamin D levels may decline, and eventually become deficient.

A vitamin D deficiency can cause bone demineralisation (rickets in children, osteomalacia in adults), osteoporosis, as well as weak, aching and twitching muscles. Scientific American published an article linking vitamin D deficiency to an increase in risk of colds and the flu in winter, especially for those with underlying respiratory problems. Other health professionals have claimed that a variety of diseases are caused by or made worse by low levels of vitamin D.

Some daily skin exposure sunlight is important for the body to manufacture a healthy level of vitamin D, but some care must be taken.

How many hours of sunlight is your skin exposed to each day on average?

See results

Vitamin D from sunlight

Humans create vitamin D in the skin when exposed to 'sufficient' sunlight (UVB). This occurs usually when the UV index is above 3, which is more commonly in summer and late spring/early autumn or year-round in tropical areas.

Studies show that reduced exposure to sunlight causes a decrease in vitamin D levels. In modern society, many people work inside during the day, and are exposed to very little sunlight, resulting in the increase in lower levels of vitamin D.

Anti-cancer societies encourage the constant use of high-protection sunscreen lotions, as skin cancer rates rise worldwide. However, as sunscreen blocks UV rays and prevents vitamin D production in the skin, this may contribute to the growing number of vitamin D deficient people. It is difficult to determine where the happy medium lies.

It has also been shown that sunlight is important for those suffering from depression. Many chronic pain sufferers also deal with depression - being in pain all of the time is not easy to handle.

Pain and vitamin D

It is not known if the chronic pain causes a reduction in vitamin D levels, or whether the low levels cause more pain.

It is not even proven that such a direct link in either direction exists, yet research seems to indicate there is some relationship between long-term pain and vitamin D.

An Australian study and the Mayo clinic have both suggested that supplementing vitamin D helps to reduce or stop the wind-up response in chronic pain sufferers, where the pain-threshold is lowered by constant pain signals over-sensitizing pain receptors in the brain. This may be useful for those suffering fibromyalgia, known for having a particularly strong wind-up response.

A study of 100 fibromyalgia patients in Saudi Arabia in 2011, found that in those who were seriously deficient in vitamin D, raising the vitamin D level above 50 ng/mL provided some pain relief to about 2/3 of the patients.

Although many studies have not proven that vitamin D supplementation helps chronic pain, supplementation with vitamin D3 is inexpensive. Doctors may choose to prescribe supplements for those who have tested low levels, both for the possible pain reduction, and for the longer term protection of bone health.

Sunset in Melbourne, Australia.
Sunset in Melbourne, Australia. | Source

Disclaimer

I am not a medical professional. If you have pain of any kind, or are considering supplementing your diet with vitamin D tablets, please contact your doctor.

I have been diagnosed with multiple chronic pain conditions, including fibromyalgia, adenomyosis, and various other inflammatory and nerve conditions. I also have an extremely low (and difficult to raise) vitamin D level, which some doctors and pharmacists had mentioned was linked to the chronic pain conditions.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • Just Ask Susan profile image

        Susan Zutautas 

        6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        I just started taking Vitamin D 3 days ago in hopes that it will help to lesson the pain I have from RSD. I found you hub very informative and useful.

      • nifwlseirff profile imageAUTHOR

        Kymberly Fergusson 

        6 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

        Vinsanity100 - Food/natural sources are the best for vitamins and minerals, especially because junk food is eliminated from our diets (or at least drastically reduced). Thanks!

      • Vinsanity100 profile image

        Vinsanity100 

        6 years ago from Michigan

        Thanks for the post. I have been starting to understand the flaws in our thinking. Between the sun and our food, we seem top have it all backwards. I try to get vitamin D in the natural forms.

      • profile image

        ekkej 

        6 years ago

        I saw my doctor this morning to asked about my blood tests to get more details. I found that she did not tested Vit D or B at all. So my "normal" results of all tests does not include it! I asked why. She said that she had a letter from a government department and she had been testing too many D levels compared to other doctors. For the B vitamin, she said it is only vegetarians who can be deficient. It means, be careful to tell your doctor to test for each thing you need. Just saying "please test everything!", as I did, will might not work. So hard to find doctors who will explain to me and most does not listen at all.

        Anyway that is enough post on your good article. Thank you again.

      • nifwlseirff profile imageAUTHOR

        Kymberly Fergusson 

        6 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

        ekkej - thank you! I'm glad the advice was useful (I do update my articles from time to time, especially if new research is released).

        I agree, when tests come back without showing anything wrong, it's very frustrating. My vitamin D levels are slowly increasing, thanks to supplements, and my next test is in a couple of weeks. I haven't seen a difference in tiredness, but I'm happy my bones are a bit more protected with the higher D levels!

      • profile image

        ekkej 

        6 years ago

        Thanks much for replying, I see this article was written 4 months ago. It is good advice. I'm sorry that you have chronic exhaustion. And also I think it is the worst when the tests seem like everything should be fine, and you can not work out the reasons for the symptom. Good luck also to you too.

      • nifwlseirff profile imageAUTHOR

        Kymberly Fergusson 

        6 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

        ekkej - Other deficiencies can cause constant fatigue, especially also the B vitamin levels. A blood test is the only way to know for sure if you are deficient in D, and if your blood test level of D is ok, then I believe that is not what is causing the tiredness. Perhaps you could get your B levels and thyroid checked? (Doctors are always testing my thyroid, because of chronic exhaustion/illnesses, but the results are always fine). Good luck!

      • profile image

        ekkej 

        6 years ago

        How do you know if you are deficient in Vitamin D? I have intense persistent fatigue but there is nothing wrong with my blood tests does that mean it isn't Vit D?

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 

        6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

        Thank you for the information, nifwiseirff. I know someone who suffers from fibromyalgia and chronic pain. I'll ask her about her vitamin D intake. Good luck with managing your pain.

      • nifwlseirff profile imageAUTHOR

        Kymberly Fergusson 

        6 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

        Thanks Rachel! I don't know whether it's because they were out and about, getting a little exercise, or taking more care of their health, or because the extra vitamin D was lessening their pain. But in any case, if it works, then it is good!

      • Rachel Richmond profile image

        Rachel Richmond 

        6 years ago from California

        Hello nifwlseirff - I like and have to go with your observations/research on Vit. D. Too many who begin to get out into the sun or take a supplement feel better and sleep better. LOL...They were happier and easier to work with...

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, healdove.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://healdove.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)