FibromyalgiaObesityPainVitamin D

Correlating vitamin D levels and the need for pain meds

Mayo Clinic research shows that inadequate vitamin D levels are associated with a greater need for narcotic medication in patients with chronic pain.

First, the details.

  • The records of 267 chronic pain patients treated in a multidisciplinary pain rehabilitation center were reviewed.
  • Blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (vitamin D) were drawn at the start of the study.
    • Levels up to 20 ng/mL were considered inadequate.
    • Greater than 20 ng/mL were considered adequate.
  • Opioid intake was documented, and patients completed the Short Form-36 Health Status Questionnaire at the start of the study.

And, the results.

  • 26% of the patients had inadequate vitamin D blood levels.
  • Among patients using opioids, the average morphine equivalent dose in the inadequate vitamin D group was 134 vs 70 mg/day for the adequate group — a significant difference.
  • The average duration of opioid use for the inadequate group was 71 vs 44 months for the adequate group — a significant difference.
  • Opioid users with inadequate levels reported significantly worse physical functioning and health perception than opioid users with adequate vitamin D levels.
  • There was also a correlation between increasing body mass index (a measure of obesity) and decreasing levels of vitamin D.

The bottom line?
The authors concluded, “Though preliminary, these results suggest that patients who suffer from chronic, diffuse pain and are on narcotics should consider getting their vitamin D levels checked. Inadequate levels may play a role in creating or sustaining their pain,”

“Vitamin D is known to promote both bone and muscle strength. Conversely,” said lead author, Dr. Michael Turner, in a Medical News Today interview, “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.”

“For example, 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.”

3/22/09 17:45 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.