New research finds achieving healthy vitamin D levels helps relieve symptoms of chronic widespread pain
by Amber Tovey
A recent study published in the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases discovered that vitamin D replacement therapy improved musculoskeletal symptoms, depression and quality of life among patients with chronic widespread pain.
Chronic widespread pain (CWP) is defined as pain persisting for at least three months. It differs from localized pain by both its distribution throughout the body and by the heightened pain intensity. CWP affects physical and psychological health; patients with CWP are more likely to experience depression, anxiety and a lower quality of life.
CWP is very common, affecting approximately one in five people. However, its severity and symptoms greatly vary. The most severe form of CWP is formally known as fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia has different qualifications for diagnosis, one of which is the possession of at least 11 tender points. Tender points are areas that are much more sensitive than others, causing pain when touched.
Vitamin D helps maintain muscle strength, while reducing inflammation. This combination led researchers to conduct a randomized controlled trial in which they discovered vitamin D supplementation significantly reduced musculoskeletal pain. Furthermore, several randomized controlled trials have concluded that vitamin D is an effective antidepressant.
Due to evidence from past studies, researchers conducted a study to investigate the effects of vitamin D supplementation on patients with CWP.
The clinical trial included 58 CWP patients who were considered vitamin D deficient as defined by levels less than 25 ng/ml. All patients received 50,000 IU of vitamin D3 weekly for three months.
Researchers assessed the pain, physical weakness, energy, depression, quality of life and patient satisfaction before and after the vitamin D treatment.
Here is what the researchers found:
- Average vitamin D levels significantly increased from before vitamin D treatment to after with levels of 10.6 ng/ml and 46.5 ng/ml, respectively (p < 0.001).
- Pain, physical weakness, depression and energy significantly improved after the treatment (p < 0.001).
- Before treatment, 30 patients met the qualifications for fibromyalgia. After treatment, this number significantly reduced to 20 (p = 0.013).
- A total of 85% of patients stated that they were satisfied with the vitamin D treatment.
The researchers concluded,
“A 3-month replacement treatment has provided reductions in musculoskeletal symptoms, level of depression and an increase in quality of life of patients with nonspecific CWP and vitamin D deficiency. Patients with FM or CWP should be investigated in regard to deficiency of vitamin D.”
They went on to state,
“Patients with FM or CWP should be investigated in regard to deficiency of vitamin D. Oral vitamin D3 of 50,000 IU/ week for 3 months is substantially efficacious and safe replacement treatment in vitamin D deficiency.”
The lack of a control group limited the strength of the study’s findings, potentially allowing a placebo effect to occur. Nonetheless, vitamin D is not often accompanied by any side effects and can be purchased at very affordable rates. Thus, patients with CWP will find that taking vitamin D is worth a shot. As always, the Vitamin D Council recommends supplementing with 5000 IU daily of vitamin D3, and after two months, testing 25(OH)D levels.
Yilmaz, R. et al. Efficacy of vitamin D replacement therapy on patients with chronic nonspecific widespread musculoskeletal pain with vitamin D deficiency. International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases, 2016.
* This article was published with permission from The Vitamin D Council. For more information on fibromyalgia and vitamin D click to visit The Vitamin D Council.