Researchers from Austria have recently discovered that fibromyalgia, a chronic pain syndrome, can be eased by ingesting vitamin D. This is especially helpful for fibromyalgia sufferers who have low levels of the vitamin in their bodies. Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because it is produced on the skin after being exposed to sunlight.
Fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic pain and fatigue, and sufferers can also struggle with insomnia, stiffness and low concentration, and anxiety and depression. It wasn’t until recently that doctors began figuring out fibromyalgia is not a psychosomatic disorder, and that the pain can be eased by several different therapies, such as drugs and physical and cognitive-behavioral therapies. But no one therapy will treat all symptoms of fibromyalgia alone. This is why multimodal therapies are especially important for fibromyalgia sufferers.
Dr. Florian Wepner, of Orthopedic Hospital Vienna Speising, and his team of researchers tested 30 women with fibromyalgia and low levels of vitamin D by giving them a vitamin D supplement or a placebo for 20 weeks. The researchers checked vitamin D levels periodically throughout the study, and then stopped giving either supplement or placebo to the women for five weeks, in order to judge the outcome of any long-term effects.
The 25-week long study showed a significant decrease in pain, with increased physical functioning and decreased morning fatigue. While positive, the study yielded no change in anxiety or depression in the women. The researchers were pleased with the results but know that fibromyalgia is a complex syndrome that requires further study, and cannot be solved by vitamin D administration alone, but they do believe fibromyalgia is eased by vitamin D supplements.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that approximately five million adults suffer from fibromyalgia, which amounts to two percent of the U.S. population. Fibromyalgia usually accompanies other rheumatic conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and is diagnosed in the absence of other medical conditions.
Fibromyalgia sufferers tend to miss a lot of time from work, with working women 10 times less likely to return to work after hospitalization, and and four times less likely to stay at work more than a year after hospitalization.
An average of 17 days of work per year is missed by fibromyalgia sufferers compared with six days of work missed for those who do not have the condition. Those suffering from fibromyalgia are more likely to lead lower quality work and private lives.
Having fibromyalgia can be costly. The average fibromyalgia sufferer can spend upwards of $6,000 for emergency room and doctor visits, tests and procedures, and hospitalizations. The mortality rate is not higher in fibromyalgia patients but the chronic pain can lead to suicide and injury.
Fibromyalgia patients usually have low levels of vitamin D so taking the vitamin supplement is helpful, but only while under a physician’s care, recommends Dr. Wepner. “Vitamin D supplementation may be regarded as a relatively safe and economical treatment,” the doctor says, and because of its easy access, can reach a wider population of fibromyalgia sufferers. The study out of Austria shows fibromyalgia can be eased by ingesting vitamin D.
By Juana Poareo