Low vitamin D levels linked with chronic generalised pain in women

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Back in November one of my blogs focused on the phenomenon of generalised body pain and vitamin D deficiency. The blog was based on my experience in practice of usually female patients, but it was also triggered by a chance conversation I had had very recently with a general practitioner here in the UK who claimed to be getting good results in his patients with generalised pain through treatment with vitamin D.

This week saw the publication of a study which lends some support to the concept that generalised pain can be rooted in a problem with low vitamin D levels. This British research, published on-line in the Annals of Rheumatic Disease, assessed the relationship between pain and vitamin D levels in almost 7000 men and women.

The researchers found that, overall, women with lower vitamin D (25-hydroxy-cholecalciferol) levels were more likely to suffer from chronic widespread pain compared to women with higher vitamin D status. After adjusting for so-called confounding factors, this research revealed that women with a vitamin D level of less than 75 nmol/L had a 57 per cent increased risk of suffering from chronic widespread pain compared to women with vitamin D levels of between 75 and 99 nmol/L.

This, this research showed a significant association between vitamin D levels and chronic widespread pain in women. However, no significant association was found in men. The reason for this gender difference is not known. However, my experience in practice has been that individuals with generalised pain in whom vitamin D insufficiency appears to be the triggering factor are usually female.

In my blog in November, I wrote that I view a 25-hydroxy-cholecalciferol level of 50 nmol/L or less as evidence of deficiency. I may need to revise that value now, because this latest research suggests that as far as pain is concerned, vitamin D levels of less than 75 nmol/L may be suboptimal.


Atherton K, et al. Vitamin D and chronic widespread pain in a white middle-aged British population: evidence from a cross-sectional population survey. Ann Rheum Dis [Epub ahead of print 2 August 2008].

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