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How Vitamin D Deficiency Can Cause Back Pain

How  Vitamin D Deficiency Can Cause Back Pain?

Does this sound familiar ? Your back is killing you even though  you’re sticking to your exercise regimen and physiotherapy. I mean you have done   the heat and ice thing, and still your back hurts.  What gives? You might be suffering, especially if you are an older woman, from Vitamin D deficiency. Doctors have revealed that “ 83% patients who experiencing back pain with no obvious causes for more than six months have an abnormally low level of the sunshine vitamin”. [1] In this post I’ll examine the question of how Vitamin D  deficiency can cause back pain, and what you can do about it.

A woman touches the area of her back where she feels pain
This woman is showing the location of her pain

So, without further introduction, let’s jump in with a discussion of what exactly is Vitamin D deficiency.

What is Vitamin D ?

This is a photo Showing Vitamin D Capsules Pouring Out of a Brown Bottle
A Bottle Pouring Out Vitamin D Capsules

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it is stored in the body’s fatty tissue. People normally get Vitamin D through exposure to the sunlight, which triggers Vitamin D production in the skin.

How Can You Have Vitamin D Deficiency?

Vitamin D is the only vitamin made by your own body. Other vitamins, like A, B, and C only come from food and supplements. You probably don’t get enough vitamin D if:

  • You spend little time in the sun or use a strong sunblock
  • Have very dark skin
  • Have certain medical conditions such as diseases of the digestive system that interfere with fat and vitamin D absorption
  • Are very overweight, because vitamin D can get “trapped” in body fat and be less available for the needs of the body [2]

Overweight and Vitamin D Deficiency

Photo of a Man in Red Tee Shirt and Blue Pants Bending Over From Back Pain
An overweight man bends over from back pain

This point is worth examining further because  it happens to a lot of people, especially women. Here is an account, by the Times of India, that speaks directly to the issue. It is reported by spine surgeon Shailesh Hadgaonkar on a patient named Meena. “ Meana (34), an engineer and mother of two children, was disabled with significant back pain after the second child’s delivery. She was overweight and slightly depressed with disabling back pain.”[3]

Doctors started her on a program of weight control, medication, and physiotherapy. She did regular walks, spine-strengthening exercises and aerobics. She lost a good amount of weight. Doctor Hadgaonkar also noted that Meena “…also had vitamin D deficiency causing fatigue and pain, which was corrected with good sunlight exposure for 20-30 minutes for 4-5 days a week and some medications.” [4]

Stress Symptoms Reported by People With Vitamin D Deficiency

A recent study of patients being treated for Vitamin D deficiency reported the stress levels as follows:

  • 95 Vitamin D deficiency patients reported severe stress (31%)
  • 100 Vitamin D deficiency patients reported moderate stress (37%)
  • 73 Vitamin D deficiency patients reported mild stress (24%)
  • 19 Vitamin D deficiency patients reported no stress (6 %) [5]

Pain Symptoms Reported by People With Vitamin D Deficiency

A follow up study of patients being treated for Vitamin D deficiency reported the pain levels as follows:

  • 538 Vitamin D deficiency patients reported severe pain(30%)
  • 679 Vitamin D deficiency patients reported moderate pain (38%)
  • 356 Vitamin D deficiency patients reported mild pain (20%)
  • 171 Vitamin D deficiency patients reported no pain (9%) [6]

Fatigue and Depression symptoms showed similar results to the two studies above. Meaning  more people experienced  severe or moderate fatigue or depression than those that experienced mild or no symptoms. The link with depression was also reported in the May 2008 issue of Archives of General Psychiatry–among 1,282 men and women ages 65 to 95, Vitamin D levels were 14 percent lower in those with depression. [7]

With depression, the fact that Vitamin D aids calcium absorption may be a factor. Calcium deficiency has been linked to depression and study participants who were depressed had higher levels of parathyroid hormone (PTH), which can indicate low calcium. [8]

Treatments taken by people with vitamin D deficiency—Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol)

Vitamin D3 is the form of Vitamin D called cholecalciferol. Cholecalciferol is the most widely known of the Vitamin D series and is a fat soluble vitamin that is stored to some degree in the body. It is used as a dietary supplement, for the treatment of Vitamin D deficiency, or to prevent a deficiency.

Most popular supplements are: Spring Valley Vitamin D3 Nature’s Way Vitamin D3 and Kirkland Signature Vitamin D3

Women and Vitamin D Deficiency

As I stated in  the beginning of this post, women, especially older ones, tend to experience  pain at a greater level than men. According to an article in the may issue of  Journal of The American Geriatric Society (Vol 56, No 5), lower concentrations  of Vitamin D are associated with significant back pain in older women but not in men in the same age group.[9]

A Difference Between The Sexes and Vitamin D Deficiency

The study’s goal was to examine associations between Vitamin D status and musculoskeletal pain in older adults and whether they differ by sex. Results showed 58% of the women had at least moderate pain in some location, compared with 27% of the men. However, Vitamin D deficiency was not associated with lower extremity pain or dual-region pain, although it was associated with a significantly higher prevalence of at least moderate back pain without lower extremity pain in women but not in men. Researchers say the gender difference in the results may be due to women being at higher risk of osteomalacia–softening of the bones due to low Vitamin D, which commonly presents as chronic low back pain.[10]

The bottom line is this, because Vitamin D deficiency and chronic pain are fairly prevalent in older adults, the researchers say these findings suggest it may be worthwhile to query older adults about their pain and screen older women with significant back pain for Vitamin D deficiency.

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Conclusion

As stated before, most of our Vitamin D comes from exposure to sunlight. However, as we age our skin synthesizes Vitamin D less efficiently. Once more, if you’re confined to your home, or you live in northern latitudes where there’s less sunlight, you’ll be at greater risk of low Vitamin D levels. This means you might need Vitamin D supplements. The recommended daily intake for Vitamin D is 400 international units (IU) at 50-70 years and 600 IU at age 71 and older. That said,  you should always check with your doctor because  excess vitamin D can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

I like to hear from the readers so please leave me a comment below to let me know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.

 

References

1

“suffering from nagging back pain? Better to check vitamin D count.” Times of India, 18 Oct. 2017

2

https://www.hormone.org/diseases-and-conditions/bone-health/vitamin-d-and-calcium

3

“suffering from nagging back pain? Better to check vitamin D count.” Times of India, 18 Oct. 2017

4

Ibid

5

https://www.patientslikeme.com/

6

https://www.patientslikeme.com/

7

“vitamin D may be ‘the vitamin of the decade’.” Food& Fitness Advisor, Aug. 20008, p. 1+

8

Ibid

9

“suffering from nagging back pain? Better to check vitamin D count.” Times of India, 18 Oct. 2017

10

Ibid

26 thoughts on “How Vitamin D Deficiency Can Cause Back Pain

  1. I have personal experience on the differences adding vitamin D as a regular supplement. As a 40 something woman with Lupus, I have experienced a lot of back and joint pain. Although not all, much of it is due to Vitamin D deficiency. I can not get the natural D due to Lupus affecting my ability to be in the sun. Introducing this a couple years ago has helped so much. I experience a lot less annoying nagging aches. I think it has also greatly helped my immunity as well.
    I appreciate this article as reinforcement fo the value of this important supplement. I enjoy following your site!

    1. Christina,
      I appreciate you sharing your story about Lupus. You have taught me something I didn’t know. I had no idea about Lupus and its connection to being out in the sun. And thus you have taught me something new about vitamin D deficiency. Thank you. Thanks for checking in, and I wish you continued good health.

  2. Hello! This is such a great article. I also do vitamin D and I was amazed at what a difference it made for me. Thanks for all this information. In peace and gratitude, ariel

    1. Hi Ariel,

      It’s always a pleasure to hear from you. I’m glad you have experienced the benefits of vitamin D, and I too wish you peace and gratitude.

  3. This is really interesting and i am glad I cam across it because I was reviewing the symptoms of deficiency, and many of them seem to apply to me…

    I never knew that the body creates vitamin D out of cholesterol, which makes me wonder if being out in the sun more, or taking supplements would reduce high cholesterol..

    I’ll be passing this info along to my wife– who is a nurse– because she also seems to have a couple of the symptoms listed.

    1. Hi Craig,
      Your hunch is correct. Unless you cholesterol is abnormally high, sunshine, according to the latest scientific findings, will indeed help reduce cholesterol. In fact, doctors are recommending that everyone spends at least 30 minutes in the sun everyday as part of managing healthy cholesterol levels. That said, if your cholesterol is extremely high then you’ll also need a combination of medication and diet to stay healthy and reduce the risk of heart disease. I’m glad you found the post useful.

  4. Hi Thabo. This is great information! I bet most people would never think about a Vit D deficiency in relation to their back pain.
    Back pain is a plague in modern life.
    I hope many suffers see this article and take it to heart!

    1. Hi Dianne,
      You’re right, Dianne. A lot of people don’t make the connection between Vitamin D deficiency and back pain. That’s one of the reason I wrote this post. I’m glad you found the information useful.

  5. This was an eye-opening article. Thank you for the detailed information regarding Vit D deficiency and the problems it can cause. The videos both explained a lot. I will look into a supplement, as well as a greater effort to eat foods rich in Vitamin D.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Sue, I’m glad you enjoyed the videos. I thought they were well done and did, as you say, a good job of explaining exactly what Vitamin D deficiency is. Thanks for checking in. Drop by anytime.

  6. Hello there,
    Great information..I live in Greece and i have plenty of sun but i never know to appreciate his benefits. Is something that i will have a closer look and be more grateful for the sunny hot days:)
    Really was a very informative article and i will ask you something. Even if you live in a sunny place is good to take the supplement?
    Have a good day,
    Cristina

    1. Hi Cristina,
      If you live in a sunny place chances are that you can get enough Vitamin D from your multivitamins. Too much vitamin D can also be bad for you. Unless you start experiencing unexplained back pain, I think just taking your daily multivitamins, with vitamin D included, should be enough. Thanks for checking in. Enjoy the sunshine.

  7. I have always suffered from terrible back pain. It has been since I was younger to be honest and despite numerous doctors easing the pain, it has always been there to irritate me,

    I am happy I found this information as I am always looking for help with my issue.

    I will try and implement your advice here.

    Thank you

    Chris

    1. Hi Chris,
      Yes, back pain never seems to really go away once you get it. Fortunately, our understanding of how the role of things like Vitamin D Deficiency play in the condition can enable us to better mitigate the effects of back pain. Thanks for checking in. I wish you luck.

  8. Hello there, Thabo.
    Thanks for such a comprehensive report on back pain and Vitamin health. You certainly got me thinking…and ultimately, will be taking positive action. It is amazing how our bodies can react to ‘lack’ and excess. What blew my mnind was the percentage related to the vitamin deficiency and the stress level – eye-opening indeed!
    Thanks so much for sharing.
    I will be stalking your site too…great info all over!
    Michelle

    1. Hi Michelle,
      Yes, I too was taken back when I first did the research on stress levels associated with Vitamin D deficiency. I had an idea but wasn’t aware of the severity of the stress levels. I hope that this post spreads the word about the importance of getting enough vitamin D. I’m glad that you found it useful.

  9. Your research is crucial these days. So many people are now afraid of skin cancer they do not allow the skin to do the job of making vitamin D. Do you know if vitamin D supplements are as effective in relieving the condition as being in the sun for 20 minutes?

    1. Hi sheila,
      Great question. As a matter of fact vitamin D supplements are often given to people who live in parts of the world where there is little sun. This treatment has been proven to be as effective as being in the sun for 20 minutes. That said, it’s advisable to seek feedback from a doctor as too much vitamin D can also produce health problems. However, in most cases taking a daily allowance of Vitamin D supplements can benefit you if your problem is not getting enough sun.

  10. Thabo,
    I take Vitamin D daily. It was recommended by my Dr. to help heal a broken bone. I think it has helped me as I no longer suffer from any back pain.
    What do you think would be the MG a person in their 60’s should take daily.
    John

    1. Hi John,
      I would consult with your doctor. That said, The Institute of Medicine establishes recommended dietary allowances for each vitamin and mineral, based on age and gender. The RDA for vitamin D for those ages 51 to 70 is 15 mcg a day, while the RDA for those older than 70 is 20 mcg a day. This is the equivalent of 600 IU for those between the ages of 51 and 70 and 800 IUs for those older than 70. I hope this helps.

  11. Remarkable post on vitamin D deficiency this is some great information, and some things I didn’t know about it. It was the only one our body doesn’t make.

    1. Hi Fred,
      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Yes, it is a rather interesting fact that Vitamin D is the only vitamin that our body doesn’t make. Yet a lack of this vitamin can play a big role in such matters as successful spinal fusion surgery, for example. Most fusions fail because of vitamin D deficiency. This is all the more reason people have to do everything they can, with the consultant of a doctor, to get enough Vitamin D.

  12. I just started taking Vitamin D but never thought about it helping back pain. I’ve got a couple shot discs and was born with a irregular curve to my spine so during my working life I struggled with back issues and pain. Since I no longer work the problem is not so bad but if I do not exercise and stretch, I will have issues. Very interesting article and I’m bookmarking this to come back and read all the articles you have.

    1. Hi Craig,
      A lot of people have no idea about the role that Vitamin D plays in helping back pain. As I said, if you’re confined to your home, or you live in northern latitudes where there’s less sunlight, you’ll be at greater risk of low vitamin D levels. This can only worsen your condition. So if you’re suffering from unexplained back pain, it may be a good idea to have a doctor check your vitamin D levels.

  13. Hello Thabo,
    This was an extremely interesting article. I’m very glad I found it, as I didn’t know that lack of vitamin D can be one cause of getting back pain.
    As the body can’t produce vitamin D itself it is obvious that it’s of great importance to take supplements, if living in a country where the winter season is long and dark, like it is where I come from.
    There are many people who have got back pain, some of them in my family. I’m going to tell them to check if they have an enough high vitamin D level.
    I’m definitively going to read more of your helpful articles.
    Kind regards,
    Pernilla

    1. Hi Pernilla,

      I’m glad you found the article helpful. As you say, there are people living in a country where the winter season is long and dark. If they are experiencing back pain, then it would be a good idea for them to check their vitamin D levels. Great connecting with you. I also look forward to reading more great tips on healthy living from your website. Take care,

      Thabo

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