Your Facebook questions answered: Vitamin D and arthritis pain

“I’ve  read that there’s evidence that vitamin D has analgesic effects for those with arthritis pain. Do you know anything about this?”, asks Enlightened Eater Facebook fan Alison Smiley.

Alison, there is certainly a lot of scientific research being conducted on the subject of vitamin D and pain, in particular arthralgia or joint pain.

Most of the research has indeed found a link between low levels of vitamin D in the blood and different types of pain.  Scientists have assessed this in many different population groups including the elderly and children.  One particular group that is the centre of this research are women with breast cancer undergoing a particular hormonal treatment for the cancer.  In fact, in these women the pain can be so debilitating that they may not adhere  to the treatment for their cancer.

But even with dozens and dozens of studies on the subject,  there is more research  that need to be conducted.

Here’s why:

While scientists have found that low blood levels are associated with this type of pain, they need to conduct more clinical research to see if actually raising the vitamin D levels helps to alleviate this pain.  Though it may seem logical, it may not be that straightforward. There may be another factor involved in why the blood levels are low.

Conducting more research where some subjects are given vitamin D supplements to raise their blood levels while others are given a placebo will provide more answers.

There have been some investigations on the subject but the results, while promising,  are not conclusive.

In a small study published in the European Journal of General Practice, subjects with low vitamin D blood levels,  between the ages of 18 and 50 years,  with generalized joint and muscle  pain and  no other signs of illness who were given high doses of the vitamin reported decreased pain scores.

In another small study of U.S. veterans with low vitamin D levels who were  experiencing chronic pain and poor sleep, vitamin D supplementation also improved both their pain and sleep.  

In other research, though, very high levels of vitamin D supplements were required to raise the blood levels. Since vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin, can be toxic,  if you’re  trying to raise your  readings significantly with large doses you should do so under medical supervision.  Otherwise it can be a risky proposition.

What is ironic here in Ontario is that for many years, having your blood tested   for vitamin D levels was an insured benefit but then right around the time that the vitamin D became a hotbed of  research, the government delisted it. So now that science is showing how critical vitamin D is, you have to pay for testing on your own.


Have you used any supplements for pain relief? Please share your experiences in the comment section below.

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Categories: Your Questions Answered

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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2 Comments on “Your Facebook questions answered: Vitamin D and arthritis pain”

  1. Mike
    August 28, 2014 at 7:14 am #

    Is there any research on the interrelationship between statins and vitamin D or D3?

    • August 28, 2014 at 9:03 am #

      It’s an interesting question Mike! I looked up some of the research and there is indeed a study from Buffalo, New York on the subject. It shows that patients on a high dose of statins who had low blood levels of vitamin D were more likely to experience the adverse muscle pain linked to these medications. The authors recommended correcting the low vitamin D before starting the statin regime.

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