Vitamins and minerals play a critical role in our health, helping to ensure that our bodies perform exactly the way that they are supposed to. Often, we already get the nutrients that we need from our food but that isn’t always the case.
One particularly significant nutrient is vitamin D. In particular, there is growing recognition that vitamin D deficiency is a hidden epidemic and many people don’t get enough, despite their sun exposure.
Vitamin D deficiency can present in a number of ways, including a surprising connection between vitamin D and muscle pain. In fact, many symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are easy to overlook or associate with other issues.
This makes it critical to understand the impacts of vitamin D on the body and how to make sure you get enough vitamin D.
The Significance of Vitamin D
Vitamin D isn’t actually a vitamin at all. Instead, it’s classified as a hormone and our body produces it in the presence of sunlight. Vitamin D plays a large number of roles in the body, which makes it particularly critical.
Indeed, some of our food products are even fortified with vitamin D, including some milk, orange juice and cereal (1).
Yet despite this, many people don’t get enough vitamin D and some groups are particularly vulnerable (2,3,4). For example, one study suggested that around 40% of Americans were deficient in vitamin D but around 80% of African Americans were (5).
Some people also do not drink milk or may consume milk that hasn't been fortified. This is a pattern the site Real Raw Milk Facts highlights.
Vitamin D is one of the few nutrients where supplementation seems to be needed for many people. Often, you simply can’t get enough vitamin D from sun exposure alone, particularly not in the winter months (6).
There is also some debate about how much vitamin D you should be having.
A common goal is between 400 IU and 800 IU (which stands for International Units) per day (7). However, does from 1,000 IU (8) to 5,000 IU (9) are sometimes recommended for health benefits.
The site Examine.com offers more details about the current research and views on dosages.
Nevertheless, individual needs are likely to differ and you may still experience a connection between vitamin D and muscle pain, even if you think your levels are relatively high.
This pattern may make vitamin D supplementation particularly relevant for anyone suffering from muscle pain.
Why Vitamin D and Muscle Pain?
As a general rule, vitamin D deficiency can contribute to aches and pains, including those in the muscles and in the joints (10,11,12). This occurs because vitamin D plays a critical role in the musculoskeletal system (13) and also interacts with other critical compounds, including calcium.
In many people, the relationship between vitamin D and muscle pain tends to go unnoticed. After all, muscle pain is a fairly general issue, as are many of the other symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.
So, many people may experience muscle pain but never realize that they need to increase their vitamin D intake.
Likewise, research has shown that higher levels of 25(OH)D (an indicator of vitamin D levels) can result in faster recovery of skeletal muscle strength after an injury (14). This is another indicator of why having sufficient vitamin D is so important for bone and muscle health.
This significance is also true for people with the symptoms of fibromyalgia, which includes muscle pain. Indeed, there is considerable overlap between vitamin D deficiency and fibromyalgia, with vitamin D supplementation having the potential to help treat some of the symptoms (15,16).
Now, much of the research into vitamin D supplementation is in its early stages, meaning there is a significant amount that we don’t know. For example, in terms of vitamin D and muscle pain, there isn’t much data on whether resolving the deficiency helps reduce the muscle pain.
One study showed that vitamin D replacement treatment helped to improve the quality of life and symptoms of pain in patients with nonspecific examples of musculoskeletal pain (17).
Likewise, some other studies have found promising outcomes, even though much more research is needed (18,19,20,21).
Nevertheless, the potential relationship between vitamin D and muscle pain is strong enough that vitamin D supplements have been suggested for people with knee pain for osteoarthritis (22).
What Should You Do?
There are many potential causes of muscle pain and vitamin D deficiency is just one of them. Nevertheless, there is strong research linking vitamin D and muscle pain, so the area is one to take seriously.
Additionally, this relationship is easily missed and, as a result, vitamin D deficiency tends to be left untreated.
However, vitamin D is an extremely well-tolerated supplement and is readily available.
Many doctors will prescribe vitamin D supplements if your levels are low enough or you can get a similar supplement from health companies and a range of stores (both online and offline).
At the same time, vitamin D supplementation is worth considering simply because of the various vitamin D benefits for health. For that matter, you may be deficient in vitamin D without knowing it.
Because of this, it may be worth simply trying vitamin D supplements to see whether they improve your health in any way.
If you do this, the most powerful form is vitamin D3, as this is the type of vitamin D our body uses (23).
Many people prefer to use the gel capsule form of vitamin D supplements, partly because they can be easier to swallow. Nevertheless, research suggests that there is little difference in effectiveness between these and regular pills, so you can choose either (23,24)
You can also have your doctor monitor your vitamin D levels or do this yourself using tests from places like the Vitamin D Council or Life Extension.
If you want to know more about vitamin D supplementation or why vitamin D is so important, check out the links below:
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