Vitamin D supplements significantly reduced pain in fibromyalgia patients who had low levels of the vitamin in their blood, according to the results of a small study in Austria published in the journal PAIN.
Researchers studied 30 fibromyalgia patients who had low levels of calcifediol — a prehormone produced in the liver that helps the body absorb the minerals calcium and phosphorus. The concentration of calcifediol in the blood is considered the best indicator of vitamin D levels.
“Low blood levels of calcifediol are especially common in patients with severe pain and fibromyalgia. But although the role of calcifediol in the perception of chronic pain is a widely discussed subject, we lack clear evidence of the role of vitamin D supplementation in fibromyalgia patients,” says lead investigator Florian Wepner, MD, of the Department of Orthopaedic Pain Management at Orthopaedic Hospital Speising in Vienna, Austria.
“We therefore set out to determine whether raising the calcifediol levels in these patients would alleviate pain and cause a general improvement in concomitant disorders.”
The National Institutes of Health estimates that 5 million Americans suffer from fibromyalgia, a poorly understood disorder characterized by chronic deep tissue pain, fatigue, headaches, depression, anxiety, and lack of sleep. There is no known cure and the disorder is difficult to treat.
Participants in the study took Vitamin D supplements or a placebo for up to 25 weeks. The goal for the treatment group was to achieve serum calcifediol levels between 32 and 48ng/ml via oral cholecalciferol (Vitamin D) supplements.
When calcifediol levels were raised by supplementation, a marked reduction in the level of perceived pain occurred in the treatment group.
The treatment group also had a significant reduction in “morning fatigue” and their physical role functioning improved, while the placebo group remained unchanged. There were no significant changes in depression or anxiety symptoms.
“We believe that the data presented in the present study are promising. FMS (fibromyalgia) is a very extensive symptom complex that cannot be explained by a vitamin D deficiency alone. However, vitamin D supplementation may be regarded as a relatively safe and economical treatment for FMS patients and an extremely cost-effective alternative or adjunct to expensive pharmacological treatment as well as physical, behavioral, and multimodal therapies,” said Wepner.
“Vitamin D levels should be monitored regularly in FMS patients, especially in the winter season, and raised appropriately.”
Vitamin D – also known as the “sunshine vitamin” — is produced naturally by the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D supplements are currently used to treat or prevent bone loss caused by osteoporosis.