iStock_000004099266XSmallIn the latest study, Gregory A. Plotnikoff, MD, of the University of Minnesota Medical School found a much higher incidence of vitamin D deficiency in the patients with unexplained muscle and skeletal pain than expected, regardless of their ages.
All of the African Americans, East Africans, Hispanics, and Native Americans who participated in the study were vitamin D deficient, as were all of the patients under the age of 30. The researcher says it was a big surprise that the worst vitamin D deficiencies occurred in young people — especially women of childbearing age. The findings are reported in the December issue of the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
“The message here is that unexplained pain may very well be linked to a vitamin D deficiency,” Plotnikoff tells WebMD. “My hope is that patients with unexplained pain will be tested for vitamin D status, and treated, if necessary.”
Approximately one in four patients who suffer from chronic pain also have inadequate blood levels of vitamin D, possibly contributing to their ongoing pain, according to a new study. Patients lacking sufficient vitamin D also required higher doses of morphine for a longer period of time. Researchers recorded the serum vitamin D levels of 267 adults undergoing outpatient treatment for chronic pain, as well as their pain medication (morphine) dose and duration of use, and physical and general health functioning.
Of the patients tested, 26 percent had vitamin D inadequacy. Among these patients, the morphine dose was nearly twice that of the group with adequate vitamin D levels. In addition, the vitamin D inadequacy group used morphine for an average of 71.1 months versus 43.8 months. The vitamin D deficient group also reported lower levels of physical functioning and had a poorer view of their overall health.
It has long been known that inadequate levels of vitamin D can cause pain and muscle weakness, according to the study author, W. Michael Hooten, M.D., medical director, and anesthesiologist at Mayo Comprehensive Pain Rehabilitation Center, Rochester, Minnesota.
Previous studies also have suggested that pain-related symptoms of vitamin D inadequacy respond poorly to pain medications.
“The implications are that in chronic pain patients, vitamin D inadequacy is not the principal cause of pain and muscle weakness, however, it could be a contributing but unrecognized factor,” Dr. Hooten said.

Courtesy of The Vitamin D Council / SOURCES: University of Minnesota Medical School