Sunday, November 29, 2009

In Chronic Pain? Check Vitamin D levels

If you’ve been reading up on the latest health news recently, you’ve probably already gotten your vitamin D levels checked, and if you haven’t, I suggest you do it asap. It has recently come to global attention that there is an epidemic of inadequate and deficient vitamin D levels in much of the world’s population, children in particular.
We have known for a long time that Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and muscles and now new research has pointed to its importance in the prevention of chronic diseases, as well. Most recently, research out of the Mayo Clinic is showing a correlation between inadequate vitamin D levels and the amount of narcotic medication taken by patients who havechronic pain.

According to the CDC, chronic pain is the leading cause of disability in the United States and patients often end up taking strong medication such as morphine, fentanyl or oxycodone. The Mayo Clinic study found that patients who requirednarcotic pain medication , and who also had inadequate levels of vitamin D, were taking much higher doses of pain medication — nearly twice as much — as those who had adequate levels. These patients self-reported worse physical functioning and worse overall health perception.

A correlation was also noted between increasing BMI (a measure of obesity) and decreasing levels of vitamin D. Turns out a deficiency of Vitamin D is an under-recognized source of diffuse pain and impaired neuromuscular functioning and by physicians can significantly improve their patients' pain, function and quality of life by assessing and correcting Vitamin D deficiencies. This study has important implications for both chronic pain patients and physicians, namely patients who suffer from chronic, diffuse pain and are on narcotics should consider getting their vitamin D levels checked. It may be that many patients who have been labeled with fibromyalgia are, in fact, suffering from symptomatic vitamin D inadequacy. Assessment and treatment are relatively simple and inexpensive. Levels can be assessed by a simple blood test (25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D]).

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