Can Vitamin D Supplementation Promote Chronic Pain Relief from Traumatic Injury?

(Dr. Dreessen also recommends using D3 for the Pacific Northwest users)

August 2012 Advocate Article
By Melissa D. Carter, Attorney at Law

Empirical Evidence

It is well known that vitamin D promotes both bone and muscle strength.  Less known is the extent that a deficiency can increase diffuse pain and impair neuromuscular functioning in individuals suffering from traumatic injury.  Recent studies have shown that vitamin D supplements can aid in chronic pain relief, as well as other significant health issues.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic pain is the leading cause of disability in the United States.  Patients suffering from chronic pain following a traumatic injury often end up taking narcotics such as Morphine, Fentanyl or Oxycodone to cope.  A 2009 Mayo Clinic study showed that patients who require narcotic pain medication and who also have inadequate levels of vitamin D took much higher doses of pain medication, nearly twice as much, as those who had adequate levels of vitamin D.[1]  The patients of this study also self reported worse physical functioning and worse overall health perception than those with adequate levels of vitamin D.  Moreover, the study found a correlation between decreasing body mass index and increasing levels of vitamin D.

A smaller, concentrated study on 28 U.S. veterans in 2012 revealed similar results. Researchers from Emory University School of Medicine reported a case series that found patients with multiple areas of traumatically induced chronic pain and low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations at baseline reported improvements in pain, lack of sleep and quality of life after vitamin D supplementation.[2]  The authors of this study reported in the Clinical Journal of Pain that participants had no side effects during the study and that improvements were significant, compared with baseline, in terms of the pain score, sleep latency, sleep duration, bodily pain, general health, vitality and social functioning.

How Much Vitamin D is Enough

Vitamin D blood levels of 30-40 ng/ml are considered ideal.[3]  Supplements of at least 1000 to 2000 IU per day of vitamin D may be warranted, depending upon the individual’s needs (such as chronic pain), geography (living in northern climates without year round sun), and demographics (per a 2003 study conducted by Allina Center for Health Care Innovations of Minnesota, Caucasian women of child bearing age tend to have the lowest blood levels of vitamin D), according to Harvard School of Public Health.[4]  Supplements should contain vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), rather than vitamin D2.  Health care providers should discuss the individual needs of each patient and consider specific benefits and risks.

As with any nutraceutical supplement, vitamin D supplemental (a vitamin D supplement?) is part of an integrative approach to treatment of patients with chronic pain.  Supplementation can be a valuable part of the treatment regimen and many practitioners are beginning to recommend this as part of an anti-inflammatory protocol.

Patients who have suffered traumatic injury and/or struggling with the aftermath of chronic pain due to the negligence of another should seek consultation with legal counsel versed in the variety of approaches to management of traumatic injury. If you or your patient requires consultation regarding a traumatic injury, the attorneys of Adler Giersch are available to assist you.

[1] http://newsblog.mayoclinic.org/2009/03/20/mayo-clinic-researchers-link-vitamin-d-and-chronic-pain-relief/
[2] Huang, et al. 2012.
[3] Allina Center for Health Care Innovations of Minnesota
[4] http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/questions/vitamin-d-and-chronic-disease/

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