Referred to as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is an important nutrient. Technically a prohormone, vitamin D contributes to bone health and supports a healthy immune and nervous system. A new study suggests vitamin D may also play a role in minimizing chronic back pain. Researchers observed that subjects with vitamin D deficiencies (hypovitaminosis D) were more likely to report pain than individuals with sufficient levels of this nutrient. Santa Monica spine surgeons share a closer look at the connection between vitamin D and back pain relief.
Understanding Patterns in People with Chronic Pain
There’s growing proof that vitamin D helps with chronic forms of pain, including low back pain without a specific source. Another study comparing 200 patients with low back pain to 200 healthy individuals found that the people with back pain all had significantly lower levels of vitamin D while the healthy individuals did not have such deficiencies.
Increases Bone Strength
Vitamin D is important for the spine’s wellbeing because it helps with the absorption of calcium, another nutrient necessary for maintaining good bone and joint health. If bones of the spine are weak, you may be more susceptible to sources of back pain such as:
- Facet joint fractures
- Degenerative disc disease
- Disc herniation
Lowers the Risk of Fractures and Arthritis
Stronger bones and joints are less likely to be affected by osteoporosis, a form of arthritis that affects joints. Arthritis also increases the inflammation that can affect tissues and nerves around the spine. A study involving rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and vitamin D found deficiencies of this nutrient were higher in patients with RA, a common form of arthritis that can also contribute to neck, back, and radiating nerve pain.
According to results seen in the study, getting a good night’s sleep appears to contribute to the success of vitamin D for pain relief purposes. As for the reason for this link, one theory is that since increasing amounts of vitamin D eases pain, it then becomes easier to sleep uninterrupted. There’s also a known connection between people with chronic pain and a lack of sleep. Increasing vitamin D levels and getting more sleep may also ease pain by:
- Promoting tissue healing
- Reducing the inflammation that often contributes to back pain as tissues recover during the deeper recuperative stages of sleep
- Encouraging more activity during waking hours (which is good for the spine) since productive sleep often boosts energy levels
The multi-year study further suggests a connection between vitamin D and back pain since subjects with low vitamin D levels reported less pain when levels were brought back up. While foods such as tuna, salmon, yogurt, egg yolks, and certain mushrooms are good sources of vitamin D, it can be difficult to get sufficient vitamin D from dietary sources alone. Relying on sun exposure presents other health risks, and wearing sunscreen minimizes absorption through the skin. Supplements can be an effective and safer way to increase vitamin D levels. Check with your doctor first before you make supplements a daily habit.
If increasing your vitamin D intake isn’t sufficiently relieving your back pain, you may want to schedule an appointment with a professional spine surgeon to see if you might need a procedure such as spinal cord stimulation or ACDF surgery. Santa Monica residents can put their trust in the expert surgeons at The Spine Institute. Call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an appointment and take the first steps toward living a pain-free life.