Vitamin D Levels Linked with Pain Medication Intake

March 24, 2009

New research from the Mayo Clinic demonstrates that there is a link between insufficient levels of vitamin D and the amount of narcotic medications taken by patients who have chronic pain.

New research from the Mayo Clinic demonstrates that there is a link between insufficient levels of vitamin D and the amount of narcotic medications taken by patients who have chronic pain.

Scientists studied 267 chronic pain patients at the Mayo Comprehensive Pain Rehabilitation Center where they compared the vitamin D levels, “the amount and duration of narcotic pain medication usage; self-reported levels of pain, emotional distress, physical functioning and health perception; and demographic information such as gender, age, diagnosis and body mass index” of the patients.

The data shows that among patients already taking narcotic medications, those with inadequate amounts of vitamin D were taking almost double the amount of pain medication compared to those with adequate levels. Researchers also found that those with lower levels of vitamin D had a worse physical function, worse overall health perception, and increased body mass index.

“This is an important finding as we continue to investigate the causes of chronic pain,” said Michael Turner, MD, lead author of the study. “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.”

“Physicians who care for patients with chronic, diffuse pain that seems musculoskeletal—and involves many areas of tenderness to palpation—should strongly consider checking a vitamin D level,” adds Turner says. “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.”