Vitamin D and Your Spine

Did you know that taking a vitamin D supplement may help reduce your back pain? Also known as the “sunshine pill”, vitamin D supplements have been shown to have a range of health benefits including strengthening the immune system and boosting mood. Recently, however, vitamin D has also been associated with decreasing bone pain. While this may not help reduce all types of back pain, it may be able to help back pain originating from the bones. To understand how this is possible, we must first learn a little more about vitamin D and how it affects the body. 

diagram showing how the body absorbs vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is produced by the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. It is also naturally found in certain foods such as fish, dairy, and eggs. The body uses vitamin D to absorb calcium through the small intestine in order to maintain bone health. When the body does not receive enough vitamin D, the bones can become weak, frail, and painful. Additionally vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for osteoporosis, fractures, autoimmune disorders, upper respiratory infections, and rickets. 

Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is very common and affects two thirds of otherwise healthy adults. Deficiencies are especially common in vegans, since vitamin D is primarily found in animal-based products, as well as people who have a limited exposure to sunlight. Additionally, people with darker skin are also more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency since more melanin reduces the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D. 

How does vitamin D help the spine?

Currently, more research is needed to determine if vitamin D supplementation can be used to effectively treat back pain. With that being said, however, there are a few important benefits that vitamin D can offer people with back pain. Here are some of the ways that vitamin D can benefit your spine: 

woman looking out a sunny window
  • Has anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to reduce inflammation. While this may not eliminate your back pain altogether, it can help to reduce general soreness caused by low-grade inflammation
  • Can reduce muscle soreness after a workout, as well as repair muscle damage obtained during exercise
  • Improves bone health and strength
  • Promotes skeletal muscle metabolism

Since vitamin D offers many health and spine benefits, many people wonder if they should be getting more vitamin D. Although the best way to get vitamin D is through sunlight, many people also opt to take vitamin D supplements to ensure they are getting enough of the vitamin. Before starting any supplement, however, it is recommended to consult with your primary care physician. If they believe you are vitamin D deficient, they can perform a simple blood test to determine your vitamin D levels. This information is important to determine if vitamin D can be beneficial to you, as well as figuring out what dose would work best. 

The recommended daily allowance of vitamin D for the average person is 600 international units (IU). However, people who have a severe deficiency, are older, or who get little sunlight may be recommended to take a higher dose by their doctor. Although rare, it is possible to get too much vitamin D, which is why it is important to consult with your primary care physician before starting a vitamin D supplement to help with back pain. 

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