Research dating back over the past few years appears to have identified a relationship between fibromyalgia and chronic pain and low levels of Vitamin D. Most notably, a study by the Mayo Clinic published in March of 2009 showed a direct relationship between Vitamin D deficient individuals and the relative amount of narcotic pain medication taken by those individuals.
This was the second study to be released by the Mayo Clinic, following-up on an earlier study published in November of 2008 that arrived at a similar conclusion.
One final study worthy of note is a 2009 study that appeared in the Journal of Pakistan Medical Association which showed that Vitamin D insufficiency is frequently seen in patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia and nonspecific musculoskeletal pain.
So is there a relationship between Vitamin D Deficiency and Fibromyalgia?
Before we can answer that question, we must first examine Fibromyalgia as it is defined by modern medicine. According to WebMD, Fibromyalgia is essentially a set of symptoms that when present together, imply the presence of a specific illness or the chance of developing that illness. In this case the illness is obviously Fibromyalgia.
With Fibromyalgia, the concurrent symptoms needed in order to merit a diagnosis are as follows:
- Anxiety and/or depression
- A significantly decreased threshold for pain
- Severe (or chronic) fatigue
- Widespread, chronic pain
The trending research seems to indicate a relationship between the presence of these symptoms, which are commonly diagnosed as Fibromyalgia Syndrome, and Vitamin D deficiency. There is some dissent over whether or not Vitamin D3 deficiency is a cause of Fibromyalgia syndrome, per se, or if one if frequently misdiagnosed as the other. To date, there has not been any conclusive scientific research that would settle this debate.
The study performed by the Mayo Clinic found that patients who required narcotic pain medication, and who also had inadequate levels of Vitamin D, were taking much higher doses of pain medication — nearly twice as much — as those who had adequate levels, indicating a relationship between low Vitamin D levels and severe pain.
“Vitamin D is known to promote both bone and muscle strength. Conversely, deficiency is an under-recognized source of diffuse pain and impaired neuromuscular functioning. By recognizing it, physicians can significantly improve their patients’ pain, function and quality of life,” said Michael Turner, MD, the lead author of the Mayo Clinic study. Dr. Turner continued to explain the significance of the study as it pertains to the impact the research will have on medical procedures used to identify the cause of, and treat chronic pain.
“Though preliminary, these results suggest that patients who suffer from chronic, diffuse pain and are on narcotics should consider getting their Vitamin D levels checked. Inadequate levels may play a role in creating or sustaining their pain,” says Dr. Turner. “Physicians who care for patients with chronic, diffuse pain that seems musculoskeletal — and involves many areas of tenderness to palpation — should strongly consider checking a Vitamin D level.”
So, while some grey area does still exist regarding the exact nature of the relationship between Vitamin D deficiency and chronic pain including Fibromyalgia pain, the general consensus seems to be that regardless of whether the phenomenon is a series of misdiagnoses or an actual preventive role of the nutrient in helping to stave off Fibromyalgia, people should make sure they’re getting enough Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) whether diagnosed with Fibromyalgia Syndrome or not, and doctors whose patients complain of chronic pain should order a blood test to check the Vitamin D levels of the patient experiencing the pain.
What this basically means is that medical science has in fact determined that a relationship between low Vitamin D levels and non-specific, chronic pain does exist (including pain from Fibromyalgia), but that the exact nature of the relationship has yet to be definitively established. That said, it is advisable for everyone – not just those already diagnosed with Fibromyalgia – to make a point of getting plenty of sunlight while taking a Vitamin D3 supplement regimen designed to maintain optimal levels of the nutrient in the blood.
The following is a video published by the Mayo Clinic explaining the results and significance of its study on low vitamin D levels and chronic pain: