Back Pain Progress: Researchers find vitamin deficiency common

If you suffer from chronic lower back pain and don’t know why, researchers from Saudi Arabia may have an answer for you: low vitamin D. In a recent study at the Department of Medicine, Riyadh Armed Forces Hospital in Riyadh, scientists discovered that the majority of patients complaining of chronic lower back pain had abnormally low vitamin D levels. They say screening for the deficiency, especially in places where vitamin D deficiency is common, should be standard practice and that supplementation seems to offer significant relief.

The research involved 360 patients (90% women and 10% men) attending clinics over a 6-year period who had experienced low back pain that had no obvious cause for more than 6 months. The patients ranged in age from 15 to 52 years. The researchers wanted to determine how vitamin D factors into chronic low back pain and to find a simple way to test for vitamin D deficiency. They tested patients’ blood for levels of calcium, phosphorous and vitamin D before and after treatment with vitamin D supplements.

The researchers found that 83% of the study patients had an abnormally low level of vitamin D before treatment with vitamin D supplements. After treatment, clinical improvement in symptoms was seen in all the groups that had a low level of vitamin D, and in 95% of all the patients. They conclude that vitamin D deficiency is a major contributor to chronic low back pain in areas where vitamin D deficiency is common, and that screening tests may be a simple and helpful clinical tool.

Spine 2003 Jan 15;28(2):177-9