Fibromyalgia Linked to Vitamin D Deficiency
A new study, to be published in the journal Pain Medicine, found that people with fibromyalgia tended to be deficient in vitamin D. The results also indicated that treatment with high-dose vitamin D3 resulted in significant improvement of most fibromyalgia symptoms.
Study Design and Results
This Saudi Arabian study looked at 30 female patients with an average age of 34.5 who were diagnosed with fibromyalgia according to the new clinical fibromyalgia diagnostic criteria.
Vitamin D deficiency was defined as <20 ng/mL, vitamin D insufficiency was defined as 21-29 ng/mL, and vitamin D sufficiency was equal to or >30 ng/mL. All of the participants were found to be significantly deficient, with an average serum vitamin D level of 4.76 ng/mL. There was a noticeable correlation between vitamin D levels and widespread pain - the lower the level of vitamin D, the greater the pain.
The participants were then treated with either a single high dose of vitamin D3 - 600,000 IU injected intramuscularly - or with 50,000 IU vitamin D3 tablets taken once weekly for eight weeks.
Follow-up assessments, done one month after treatment with the single-dose injection and two months after treatment with the tablets, found that treatment with vitamin D3 improved all FM diagnostic criteria scores except cognitive functioning problems.
The investigator concluded that vitamin D deficiencies are common in Saudi Arabian women with fibromyalgia and that high-dose vitamin D supplementation could lead to the resolution of most FM symptoms.
I’m not surprised at the results of this study since a number of other studies have shown a connection between vitamin D deficiency and chronic pain. There are, however, some limitations and unique conditions with this study that have to be kept in mind before we jump to any conclusions.
- This was a very small, nonrandomized study with only 30 participants.
- There was no control or placebo group for comparison.
- The study did not report the post-treatment vitamin D levels other than to say they were normal.
- There was no comparison of the difference in results between the two different treatment groups.
- No data was collected as to whether or not participants were taking other medications or supplements.
- Saudi Arabian women are more likely to be deficient in vitamin D due to the fact that clothing covers most of their bodies, restricting their exposure to sunlight which is the primary source of vitamin D.
Despite these limitations, treatment with vitamin D3 did result in symptom improvement, which is worth taking into consideration.
Personally, I’ve been taking vitamin D3 supplements for a couple of years and have noticed improvement in, but not elimination of, some of my FM symptoms. Under my doctor’s direction, I took one 50,000 IU tablet once a week for the first few months to get my levels up, then switched to a maintenance dose of 3,000 IU daily.
Since FM patients are so often found to have low vitamin D levels and since vitamin D deficiency has been clearly linked to chronic pain, I think it’s a good idea for everyone with fibromyalgia to have their vitamin D levels tested. Vitamin D3 supplements are generally a safe and inexpensive treatment option. Of course, always check with your doctor before taking any new supplement.
Abokrysha NT. Vitamin D Deficiency in Women with Fibromyalgia in Saudi Arabia. Pain Medicine. 2012(Jan); online ahead of print.
Karen is the co-founder of the National Fibromyalgia Association. She wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Pain Management.