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A woman holding a vitamin between her fingers.

Pain linked to vitamin D deficiency

by the Academic Health Center

From eNews, January 8, 2004

What's behind your aches and pain? The culprit could be vitamin D--a lack of it. University of Minnesota researchers have found a link between chronic musculoskeletal pain and vitamin D deficiency in a recent study that has received media coverage across the nation. Researchers at the U's Center for Spirituality and Healing examined 150 children and adults who complained of nonspecific body aches and found that 93 percent were vitamin D deficient. Furthermore, every participant of African American, East African, Hispanic, and American Indian descent were vitamin D deficient. All participants under 30 years old, regardless of nationality, were also found to be lacking the vitamin. And of that group, more than half were severely deficient and five participants, who had been told by their doctors that their pain was "all in their head," had no vitamin D at all. "These findings are remarkably different than what is taught in medical school," says Greg Plotnikoff, associate professor of medicine and lead author of the study. "We would expect vitamin D deficiency in old persons or housebound persons, [but] we found the worst vitamin D deficiency in young people, especially women of childbearing age." Vitamin D deficiency is associated with significant risks for osteoporosis, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Plotnikoff says this new study supports more routine screening for vitamin D deficiency. "[Musculoskeletal] pain is the most common type of complaint seen by primary care doctors," he adds. Unsuccessful treatment of pain costs $61.2 billion per year, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (November 2003). Plotnikoff says further studies need to be done to see if a prescription of vitamin D can help a patient manage or alleviate persistent, non-specific pain. The study is published in the December 9, 2003, Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

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