Chronic-Pain Patients With Low Vitamin D Need More Narcotics

Among patients who need heavy-duty pain medication, those with low levels of vitamin D in their blood need nearly twice the dosage of narcotic drugs to manage their chronic pain, a recent study discovered.     On questionnaires, low vitamin D patients also reported a worse perception of their physical functioning and overall health than those with higher levels of the vitamin. Moreover, the research found that low vitamin D was associated with increased body mass index (a measure of overweight and obesity).

The study, which was published in the journal Pain Medicine, was performed by scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
   
Chronic pain is the foremost cause of disability in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To manage it, doctors often prescribe narcotic-type, addictive pain medications such as morphine, fentanyl or oxycodone.
   
“This is an important finding as we continue to investigate the causes of chronic pain,” said Michael Turner, a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician at Mayo Clinic and lead author of the study. “Vitamin D is known to promote both bone and muscle strength. Conversely, deficiency is an under-recognized source of diffuse pain and impaired neuromuscular functioning. By recognizing it, physicians can significantly improve their patients’ pain, function and quality of life.”
   
In the study, the scientists studied data on 267 chronic pain patients evaluated at the Mayo Comprehensive Pain Rehabilitation Center from February to December 2006. The researchers compared the patients’ blood vitamin D levels when they were admitted with factors such as how much narcotic pain medication they used and for how long; the patients’ self-evaluation of their pain levels, emotional distress, physical functioning and overall health; and demographic details such as gender, age, diagnosis and body mass index.

The bottom line, Turner said, is that inadequate vitamin D might play a role in creating or sustaining chronic pain.

“For example,” he said, “many patients who have been labeled with fibromyalgia are, in fact, suffering from symptomatic vitamin D inadequacy. Vigilance is especially required when risk factors are present such as obesity, darker pigmented skin or limited exposure to sunlight."

The scientists expect to conduct further research to investigate the effects of supplementing chronic pain sufferers with plentiful, inexpensive vitamin D.
   
Vitamin D not only helps strengthen muscles and bones, but, according to recent research, is a key factor in boosting immunity, fighting inflammation and suppressing some types of cancer.


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