Vitamin D is an important component and extremely essential for our body. It is a nutrient that helps in regulation of calcium in the body. This clearly means that vitamin D is required for healthy bones. However, there are many people who are vitamin D deficient but they do not realize it. This deficiency can result in problems with the physical and mental health of a person. Vitamin D deficiency can cause significant pain in the joints to include the hips, knees, and legs. A lack of vitamin D causes the bones to become weak and soft. It is medically termed as osteomalacia in adults. A deficiency of vitamin D in children causes what is termed as rickets in children[1, 2, 3].
Osteoporosis is yet another condition that can be caused by lack of vitamin D in the body. Vitamin D or lack of it can also impact the immune system of the body which may aggravate conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and type I diabetes. The symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include fatigue, muscle and joint pain, bone pain, and respiratory problems[1, 2, 3].
Chronic pain is something that has always been quite rampant in the most developed regions of the world but a startling fact that has emerged is that in majority of the cases of chronic pain in almost all the countries the patients have been found to be vitamin D deficient. In fact, vitamin D supplement is being studied as a potential treatment for various chronic pain conditions[1, 2, 3].
Various researchers have iterated that while diagnosing a cause for chronic pain physicians should definitely look for deficiency of vitamin D. However, this is an observation based on cross sectional study and there is much to be done and researched about with regard to chronic pain and vitamin D deficiency[1, 2, 3]. This article highlights whether treating vitamin D deficiency can help prevent chronic pain conditions.
Can Treating Vitamin D Deficiency Help Prevent Chronic Pain?
Vitamin D is well-known for its antiinflammatory properties and is extremely important bone health. This is the reason why many experts believe that vitamin D is essential As a result many people believe that vitamin D has an active to play in pain relief, especially when it is caused by some sort of inflammation. A review of some studies done in 2016 mentions that people with rheumatoid arthritis had significantly lower levels of vitamin D when compared to people without this condition.
It was also observed that people with rheumatoid arthritis were more vulnerable to get vitamin D deficiency. A research from 2012 suggests that vitamin D deficiency is a potent risk factor for various inflammatory disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and in fact it may even worsen the severity of it. In cases of people with osteoporosis, vitamin D supplements have been shown to decrease the level of pain and discomfort and in some cases even prevent the onset of this disease.
Thus if the experts and the research studies were to be believed then it is quite evident that treating vitamin D deficiency helps in preventing conditions that cause chronic pain. However, a large scale Cochrane study contradicts it and states that the data that is available is not big and strong enough to establish this link and further research needs to be done in this regard.
How To Get Vitamin D?
Now that we know the importance of vitamin D and how it affects the body, it is important to know the sources of it. The best source of vitamin D is early morning sunlight. When exposing the body to early morning sun the body is able to make vitamin D through the ultraviolet rays of the sun. It should be mentioned here only early morning sunlight is the healthiest. Afternoon sun in hot weather can be detrimental and cause skin damage.
During the winter month when there is hardly any sunlight getting vitamin D from this source becomes tough. In such situations, taking supplements is beneficial. Foods that are rich in vitamin D include mushrooms. According to the National Institutes of Health a person should have at least 15 mcg of vitamin D every day. Some of the other foods that are rich in vitamin D include fishes like salmon and tuna, fortified milk, and egg yolks. Vegetarians can eat spinach, kale, soybeans, and white beans as a staple food to have enough quantity of vitamin D.
Vitamin D supplements in the form of medicines are reserved for the elderly as their skins are so frail that it cannot synthesize the vitamin D properly. Also, infants who are breastfeeding can also use supplements if their mothers do not have enough of it. It should be mentioned here that excess of vitamin D can induce toxicity and thus it is recommended to speak to a physician before starting on any supplements and take the dose only as directed.
In conclusion, there is significant data available that states that treating vitamin D can prevent chronic pain conditions; however, a Cochrane study feels otherwise and states that more research needs to be done. It is a well-known fact that vitamin D deficiency can cause soft and brittle bones which is the main risk factor for painful conditions like osteoporosis. Also lack of vitamin D also causes osteomalacia, rheumatoid arthritis, and rickets which are quite painful conditions[1, 2, 3].
Natural sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, especially in the early morning. Additionally, there are some foods that have been mentioned above that are rich in vitamin D and if someone is deficient can adopt this diet. Vitamin D supplements can be given to the elderly as their skin is no longer able to synthesize this vitamin naturally[1, 2, 3].
Caution should be maintained for people taking supplements as excess of this vitamin can cause toxicity and thus they should speak to their healthcare provider and take them only as directed[1, 2, 3].