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Pain Management Health Center

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Chronic Pain: Does Vitamin D Help?

Researchers are exploring a possible link between low levels of vitamin D and chronic pain.

Jury Still Out

But other studies have shown no connection between vitamin D and chronic pain, and a research review published in January 2010 showed that the evidence on the subject is inconclusive.

“It would be nice if vitamin D worked for chronic pain. It would offer an inexpensive and simple treatment with known and probably limited adverse effects,” Sebastian Straube, MD, PhD, tells WebMD in an email. Straube is a physician-scientist at Germany's University of Göttingen and led the research review, published in the Cochrane Library.

But it hasn't been proven that boosting your vitamin D level will erase your pain.

“Looking at all the available evidence, the link is not convincing,” Straube says. “As far as treatment studies are concerned, we found a striking contrast in study outcome between randomized double blind trials that by virtue of their study design minimize bias, and other (non-double blind) studies that are more prone to bias. The latter largely do suggest a beneficial effect of vitamin D treatment; the former largely don’t.”

Plotnikoff says that there is no evidence from randomized, controlled trials that replenishing vitamin D levels will cure chronic pain. “But it doesn’t hurt to do it,” he notes.

So if you've got chronic pain, it can’t hurt to ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels. “I believe this is absolutely medically indicated, and it should be the standard of care for everyone with chronic, nonspecific musculoskeletal pain,” Plotnikoff says.

“Considering that establishing the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of vitamin D in chronic painful conditions is a clinically important question, there is rather little high-quality evidence on this topic,” Straube says. “At present, we do not think the evidence in this area is of sufficient quality to guide clinical practice. There clearly is a need for more and better studies in the future.”

If you have severe vitamin D deficiency, any efforts to boost your D levels should be done by consulting with your doctor. Too much vitamin D can be dangerous and lead to an excess accumulation of calcium in your blood, which can lead to kidney stones.

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Reviewed on May 25, 2010

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