How many times have you seen a physician for low back pain and it was recommended that you take Vitamin D to treat it? The answer for most will be never. Depending on the nature of your back pain, a combination of physical therapy exercises, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and perhaps a corticosteroid injection is more likely to be offered.
The relationship between Vitamin D and different aspects of health continues to grow. Vitamin D has always been touted for its effect on building bones. Now, several studies have appeared in the medical literature showing a possible relationship between low levels of Vitamin D and back pain. One notable study published within the last year in Spine concluded that in a group vitamin D deficient patients who were enrolled in the study and were treated with adequate levels of Vitamin D, saw significant improvements in overall pain level. Several other studies have had similar findings. Population estimates for vitamin D deficiency are as high as 80%.
So how is Vitamin D linked to back pain? There is no clear cut answer to this yet, but there is a suggestion that Vitamin D acts as a hormone and has neuroprotective and immunomodulatory effects. In other words, Vitamin D is vital to normal nerve functioning. One of the main functions is to regulate calcium and phosphorus. Furthermore, those with low levels of Vitamin D have also have more inflammation. We know that inflammation makes pain worse, retards healing, and promotes chronic diseases.
While I am not suggesting that low levels of Vitamin D are the sole cause of back pain, it may be one key component that has been overlooked for decades. The only way to know your Vitamin D level is to have it checked with a simple blood test. This can often be done as a part of your annual physical.
Obtaining enough Vitamin D can be challenging. The best source is natural sunlight. For those who live in the north, some still cannot get enough sunlight exposure even in the summer months. While some foods also supply Vitamin D, getting enough may be difficult. Additional supplementation (Vitamin D3) is recommended to ensure adequate daily intake of Vitamin D. As aforementioned, Vitamin D testing is recommended to not only establish your current Vitamin D status, but also to monitor levels with supplementation.
- Sedighi M, Haghnegahdar A. Role of vitamin D3 in treatment of lumbar disc herniation--pain and sensory aspects: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials. 2014 Sep 25;15:373. PubMed PMID: 25257359