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Vitamin D supplements 'may reduce fibromyalgia pain'

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
vitamin d pills

17th January 2014 – Patients experiencing pain from fibromyalgia may benefit from taking vitamin D supplements if they already have low levels of the vitamin, a small study has found.

Researchers in Austria say this could be particularly beneficial for patients during the winter months when a lack of sunlight makes it harder for the body to make vitamin D.

Experts in the UK are cautioning that, although the findings are promising, the study is too small to draw firm conclusions.

Muscular pain

Fibromyalgia is a fairly common long-term condition that causes widespread muscular pain. It can also make patients feel tired and causes sleep disturbance. Additionally, fibromyalgia may also cause morning stiffness, poor concentration, and occasionally mild to severe mental symptoms such as anxiety and depression.

It is thought that as many as 1 person in every 25 may have the condition, although it affects more women than men.

Fybromyalgia symptoms vary a great deal from one person to another and from day to day, but they frequently cause problems for a person's employment and social life.

People with fibromyalgia often take paracetamol or may be prescribed other pain killers or low-dose antidepressants to manage their pain.

Vitamin D deficiency

The researchers in Vienna say that low vitamin D levels are particularly common among people with widespread chronic pain, and set out to test a theory that increasing these levels with vitamin D supplements would reduce pain.

Thirty women who had fibromyalgia were recruited for tests. All the volunteers also had low levels of calcifediol, a pre-hormone that gives a reliable indication of how much vitamin D is in a person's body.

Co-author Dr Florian Wepner of the Orthopaedic Hospital, Speising, Vienna, says in a statement: "Low blood levels of calcifediol are especially common in patients with severe pain and fibromyalgia. But although the role of calcifediol in the perception of chronic pain is a widely discussed subject, we lack clear evidence of the role of vitamin D supplementation in fibromyalgia patients.

"We therefore set out to determine whether raising the calcifediol levels in these patients would alleviate pain and cause a general improvement in concomitant disorders."

The aim of the study was to raise calcifediol levels from less than 32 ng/mL to between 32 and 48 ng/mL for a 20 week period.

Randomised controlled study

Half of the volunteers were randomly assigned to a group given vitamin D supplements and the other half were assigned to a control group and given dummy medication.

The researchers found that 24 weeks after supplementation was stopped, a marked reduction in the level of perceived pain had occurred in the treatment group. Between the first and the 25th week on supplementation, the treatment group improved significantly on a scale of physical role functioning, while the placebo group remained unchanged.

The treatment group also scored significantly better on a Fibromalgia Impact Questionnaire on the question of morning fatigue. However, there were no significant alterations in depression or anxiety symptoms.

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