A new study published in the European Journal of General Practice suggests that correcting vitamin D levels may help reduce diffuse musculoskeletal pain.
Diffuse musculoskeletal pain (DMS pain) is general pain of the bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons and nerves and not specific to any one part of the body. Past studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency is associated with DMS pain.
In the current study researchers wanted to know, if they corrected vitamin D levels in patients reporting with DMS pain, would the patients’ symptoms improve?
They examined 49 patients who presented to primary care doctors in the Rhone-Alps region in France. The doctors assessed the patients’ DMS pain using a grading system called the Lawton Scale, a scale of 1 (not severe) to 10 (most severe). They also measured the vitamin D levels of the patients. And they measured the quality of life of the patients using another grading system called the COOP-Wonca chart, a scale of 1 (best) to 5 (worst).
After this initial examination, doctors prescribed patients with either one, two or three doses of 200,000 IU of vitamin D, depending on how low their vitamin D levels were.
The doctors then reassessed the patients 45 to 60 days later, to see if there was any improvement in DMS pain and quality of life. Here’s what they found:
- Vitamin D levels improved from a mean 10 ng/ml at baseline to 47.5 ng/ml on follow-up.
- DMS pain scores improved from a mean 5.1 at baseline to 2.8 on follow-up.
- Mean quality of life improved from 3.5 at baseline to 2.8 on follow-up.
All of these findings were statistically significant. The researchers concluded,
“Treatment for severe 25(OH)D deficiency associated with DMS pain (with or without chronic fatigue) improved the health status of a cohort of 49 patients who consulted their GPs.”
One limitation is the lack of a placebo group to compare the treated patients to. We can’t know for sure if vitamin D supplementation treated the DMS pain, or if it was a placebo effect, or if there was bias. However, this was an open-label longitudinal study, so it’s promising to see vitamin D supplementation lead to reduced musculoskeletal pain and improved quality of life in this study. One strength of the study is that the patients started with very low vitamin D levels, which gave room for significant improvement in vitamin D levels.
Future studies should include a placebo-arm, to see if vitamin D supplementation is better than placebo for DMS pain.