Lower back pain intensity can vary from person to person – it may come on suddenly if you’ve lifted something heavy or moved in a way that’s hurt your back, explains Bupa. It is mostly attributed to physical causes, however. What is less commonly understood is the role that vitamin D deficiency plays in back pain.
Vitamin D, dubbed the sunshine vitamin, helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body.
These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
Low levels of the vitamin in the blood can lead to bone problems and lower back pain.
Large observational studies have demonstrated this link.
One study examined the association between vitamin D levels and back pain in more than 9,000 older women.
The researchers found that those with a deficiency were more likely to have back pain, including severe back pain that limited their daily activities.
The association led researchers to investigate whether supplementing with vitamin D can remedy back pain in deficient adults.
This hypothesis was confirmed in a study published in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
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The trial investigated the effects of vitamin D supplementation on back pain.
The study found supplementing vitamin D reduced back pain disability in severely deficient, overweight/obese adults.
Am I at risk of vitamin D deficiency?
Vitamin D is absorbed into the body through direct exposure to sunlight.
Some people will not get enough vitamin D from sunlight because they have very little or no sunshine exposure, however.
The Department of Health and Social Care recommends that you take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year if you:
- Are not often outdoors – for example, if you’re frail or housebound
- Are in an institution like a care home
- Usually wear clothes that cover up most of your skin when outdoors
- If you have dark skin – for example you have an African, African-Caribbean or south Asian background – you may also not get enough vitamin D from sunlight.
You should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year if you fit this profile, says the NHS.
You can take too many vitamin D supplements, however.
As the NHS explains, taking too many vitamin D supplements over a long period of time can cause too much calcium to build up in the body (hypercalcaemia).
This can weaken the bones and damage the kidneys and the heart.
“If you choose to take vitamin D supplements, 10 micrograms a day will be enough for most people,” advises the health body.
Vitamin D is also found in the following foods:
- Oily fish – such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel
- Red meat
- Egg yolks
- Fortified foods – such as some fat spreads and breakfast cereals
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