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Back Pain and Vitamin D Deficiency Link

A recent study has shown that older women who aren’t getting enough vitamin D could be at risk for suffering from back pain.

According to Dr. Gregory E. Hicks of the University of Delaware in Newark, “Given that low vitamin D status is fairly prevalent in older adults and that there are significant functional consequences to untreated chronic pain, these findings argue strongly for querying adults about their pain and potentially screening older women with significant back pain for vitamin D deficiency.”

Vitamin D deficiency has been tied to a vast array of health problems, including an increased risk of bone fracture, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, diabetes, heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis and even cancer.

Researchers noted that lack of the vitamin could also, theoretically, contribute to musculoskeletal pain.

To investigate the relationship between, Dr. Hicks ad his colleagues looked at blood levels of vitamin D in 958 people 65 and older. Fifty-eight percent of the women in the study, and 27 per cent of the men in the study, had at least some moderate pain in at least one region of the body.

For the men, there was no relationship between vitamin D levels and pain. Women with vitamin D deficiency, on the other hand, were nearly twice as likely to have back pain that was moderate or worse.

Spinal Centre’s comment:

Vitamin D doesn’t receive much attention, however it is one of the most important vitamins for our health. Unlike other vitamins, our main source of vitamin D is the sun.

Living in a sunny country like Australia, we should have adequate vitamin D levels. Unfortunately this isn’t the case.

There are a number of reasons why the vitamin D deficiency rate is so high. These include:

Sedentary lifestyles – We spend more time indoors than outside, lowering our exposure to the sun.

Sun protection –  It’s true that too much sun can be bad for you, however we have taken our protection methods to the extreme. Covering ourselves in sunscreen, clothing and hats reduces our exposure to the sun, thus reducing our vitamin D intake. Small amounts of time in the sun (think 10 minutes) is enough to begin converting vitamin D.

Weather and climate – Your vitamin D intake is highly dependent on where you live, the amount of sun and even cloud cover. In colder, cloudy places, vitamin D exposure is generally quite low.

Skin colour/origin – Darker-skinned people need higher amounts of sun exposure and vitamin D to function due to the penetration through the melanin in the skin.

Other people at risk of vitamin D deficiency year-round include:

  • The elderly
  • Those covered extensively by clothing or veils
  • Those with gut absorption problems
  • Those with chronic renal and liver disease
  • Those taking certain medications
  • Those with increased body fat content

What has become increasingly clear in recent years and from all the new research is that vitamin D deficiency may be the common denominator behind our most devastating modern degenerative diseases.

Illnesses and diseases like heart disease, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, hypertension, arthritis, depression, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, PMS, Crohn’s Disease, cancer, MS and other autoimmune diseases have all been attributed to a vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D deficiency can also cause stroke, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting and birth defects.

Everyday we need at least 10 minutes of sun to start to convert vitamin D. However just to confuse the matter, we need to get the right type of sun exposure for this to be beneficial. As a general rule, if your shadow is longer than you are tall, you’re not getting enough vitamin D. So, in other words, when the sun is low, it’s not the right type of sun for vitamin D conversion. So, in other words, when the sun is low, it’s not the right type of sun exposure for vitamin D conversion. Generally, the middle-of-the-day sun is the best time.

Despite our best efforts, most of us will fail to achieve the required level of vitamin D needed to promote and maintain good health. This is where supplementation comes in.


Choosing the Right Supplement

There are literally thousands of vitamin D supplements available. It’s easy to grab a supplement off the supermarket shelf, however picking the right one is a different matter.

There are two different types of vitamin D – D2 and D3. Although both types of vitamin D are present in the blood, studies suggest that the D3 form is the more beneficial for in terms of human health.

Most supermarket and pharmacy-bought supplements are simply not strong enough, or contain the wrong type of vitamin D. Investing in a premium, scientifically researched formula, like those on the Spinal Centre’s Best Vitamin D list will ensure you are getting the best vitamin D supplements for your money and for your health.

So How Much Vitamin D is Enough?

If you listen to the Recommended Daily Intake’s from the Australia Government, we should be getting:

  • 200 IU for adults up to 50 years of age
  • 400 IU for those 51-70 years of age
  • 600 IU for those over 70 years

Unfortunately this is way too low. The Government must err on the side of caution, and have presumed that the only way to get Vitamin D is to sit in the sun. Given that their focus is on skin cancer risk and their limited amount of research into optimal vitamin D levels, these levels are just too low.

Recent research and trials performed by Connell JJ in 2008 have shown that ideal vitamin D levels should be around 100 nmol/L – 175 nmol/L. Translated, this means we need to be receiving around 2000 – 3000 IU of vitamin D per day.

Not only would a higher intake boost our blood vitamin D levels, it would also help to reduce disease, illness and the economic burden of disease.

But Wait…

Before you rush out and buy the first vitamin D3 supplement you can find, you should get your vitamin D level tested. We are all different, and we all absorb different amounts of vitamin D. A Vitamin D Level Test will show your exact vitamin D levels, and give us a good indication of whether or not you need supplementation, and how much. To read more about this life-changing test, click here.

Further Reading:

If you like this article be sure to visit the Spinal Centre website at www.thespinalcentre.com.au and view more content by Dr. Hooper and the Spinal Rehabilitation Team.

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