Back pain is one the most frustrating health problems. It’s often impossible to figure out the cause, much less find a cure.
Now, surprising new research shows that a simple vitamin deficiency may be the root cause of many back pain cases.
Researchers from China’s Tongji University School of Medicine collected medical data on 232 postmenopausal women. They found a direct link between vitamin D deficiency and back pain from disc degeneration. The lower a subject’s vitamin D levels, the greater the chance they had chronic back pain.
Dr. Stephanie Faubion is an internist with the Mayo Clinic. She said the study shows that low levels of vitamin D are “linked to a greater likelihood of moderate to severe lower back pain and more severe lumbar (spinal) disc degeneration.”
Vitamin D is important for maintaining levels of calcium and phosphorus. This is critical for preventing bone diseases like osteoporosis. The new study is the first to find that this extends to the spinal column and related back pain.
Vitamin D also has other anti-pain effects, Dr. Faubion said. It reduces nerve and muscle pain sensitivity while reducing inflammation.
The new study is consistent with previous research published in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. It looked at 65 back pain sufferers. All were deficient in vitamin D. Researchers randomly assigned them to receive either vitamin D supplements or a placebo.
After 16 weeks, the subjects with the highest levels of vitamin D reported significant reductions in back pain and disability.
The Best Way to Get Vitamin D
Three quarters of Americans are vitamin D deficient. Have your doctor check your level. If your reading is less than 20 ng/mL, you need more.
You can raise your levels by spending 15 minutes in the sun each day with your legs and arms exposed.
If it’s not possible for you to increase your sun exposure, eat more foods high in vitamin D. Good sources include organic mushrooms, pastured eggs, and oily fish like wild-caught salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines.
If your levels are still too low (ideal levels are 40-60 ng/mL), take a quality vitamin D3 supplement. This is the active form and is superior to D2. We recommend 5,000 IUs a day.
If you have back pain and don’t know the cause, taking vitamin D may be a simple solution.
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