The Link Between Vitamin D and Chronic Pain

Jul 4, 2024 | Lifestyle

By: Kelli Kieselbach

Do you know what your Vitamin D levels are?

Low levels of Vitamin D, the ‘sunshine nutrient’, have been associated with chronic pain and muscle weakness in the research and there have been numerous studies reviewing the impact of Vitamin D deficiency and its impact on chronic pain and fibromyalgia patients.

Vitamin D is a hormone that we already know promotes a healthy immune system response. This includes the regulation of T helper 1 cells which are a type of immune cell that have been associated with pain, fatigue, and sleep issues in fibromyalgia and pain patients.

It’s role in the immune system makes it an important nutrient when it comes to pain conditions that are caused by immune dysfunction such as rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis which are autoimmune conditions.

Vitamin D is also powerfully anti-inflammatory. Studies demonstrate that people with Vitamin D deficiency typically have a elevated markers of inflammation that show up on their blood tests. A deficiency can be a contributing factor in conditions which are driven by inflammation such as many types of arthritis and women’s health conditions such as endometriosis.

Other studies have demonstrated that Vitamin D plays a role in central sensitisation which is a driving feature of the pain-processing condition, fibromyalgia. A 2018 meta-analysis concluded that there was strong evidence of low Vitamin D levels correlating with a fibromyalgia diagnosis. Interestingly, fibromyalgia patients with the lowest levels of Vitamin D had more severe co-existing symptoms such as brain fog, sleep disturbance, restless legs, and mood. All of which are known symptoms of low Vitamin D.

The association between pain and low Vitamin D does not mean it is THE cause of the pain however monitoring and optimising vitamin d levels is a valuable part of a holistic approach in conditions such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and many others.

Sun exposure and supplementation

Despite Australia being the sunny country (mostly), one in four people are Vitamin D deficient. This is based on standard lab reference ranges which say that levels less than 50 are classed as deficiency. Much research suggest that much higher levels are best for optimal health which means many more people have sub-optimal levels.

I recommend getting a minimum of 10minutes of sun exposure, twice a day if you can. You may need shorter or longer times depending on the season and where you live. It’s important to balance this with avoiding high UV times which can be tricky for many Australians. Ensure your limbs and are exposed. Sunscreen and windows (such as in the car) block the specific UV rays needed for your body to produce Vitamin D.

For some sun exposure will not be enough. This may be due to genetic reasons, work or health restricting their time outside or their current health status. Supplementing with Vitamin D may be necessary and helpful for many individuals. It’s useful to get the help of a nutritionist or naturopath to help you understand and interpret your blood results and get advice around supplementation to help reduce symptoms.