Getting enough vitamin D may help control chronic pain.

Researchers from Mayo Comprehensive Pain Rehabilitation Center in Rochester, Minn. report about one in four patients who have chronic pain also have inadequate blood levels of vitamin D, which might contribute to their pain. Patients who did not have enough vitamin D also needed higher doses of morphine for a longer period of time.

The study kept track of the serum vitamin D levels of 267 adults getting outpatient treatment for chronic pain. It also looked at the dose and duration of the morphine they took for pain relief.

In patients with a vitamin D deficiency, the morphine dose was nearly twice that of the group with adequate levels of vitamin D. They also used the pain medication for an average of 71.1 months, compared to 43.8 months, and had lower levels of physical functioning as well as a poorer view of their overall health.

Researchers report it has been known for a long time inadequate levels of vitamin D can cause pain and muscle weakness. But “this is the first time that we have established the prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy among a diverse group of chronic pain patients,” study author W. Michael Hooten, M.D., Medical Director at the Mayo Comprehensive Pain Rehabilitation Center, was quoted as saying. “The implications are that in chronic pain patients, vitamin D inadequacy is not the principal cause of pain and muscle weakness, however, it could be a contributing but unrecognized factor.”
Dr. Hooten reports vitamin D inadequacy can be treated easily, inexpensively, and with virtually no side effects by taking a prescription supplement once or twice a week for four to six weeks.

More studies are needed to determine whether treating the low vitamin D levels will improve the overall general health of chronic pain patients.

SOURCE: American Society of Anesthesiologists 2007 Annual Meeting in San Francisco, California, October 13-17, 2007