According to a new study, approximately one in four patients who suffer from chronic pain also have inadequate blood levels of vitamin D, possibly contributing to their ongoing pain. 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. Interesting data emerged about the trend to see less severe pain in those who had normal Vitamin D levels.
Of the patients tested, 26 percent had a vitamin D inadequacy. Among these patients with the low level of D, the morphine dose was nearly twice that of the group with adequate levels of the vitamin. In addition, the vitamin D inadequacy group used morphine for an average of 71.1 months versus 43.8 months. In the self-reporting section of the study, 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, Mayo Comprehensive Pain Rehabilitation Center, Rochester, Minnesota).
However, “this is the first time that we have established the prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy among a diverse group of chronic pain patients,” Dr. Hooten said. Previous studies 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. Patients who experience chronic pain that does not see the usual reduction with medications should be checked for Vitamin D level.
Vitamin D inadequacy can be “easily and inexpensively” treated “with essentially no side effects” using a prescription supplement, once or twice a week for four to six weeks, Dr. Hooten said. Further study is needed to determine whether treating inadequate vitamin D levels will result in improvements to the overall general health for patients with chronic pain.