Narcotics And Low Vitamin D Levels
Research performed under the auspices of the Mayo Clinic has shown a direct link between low vitamin D levels and amounts of narcotic medication taken by chronic pain patients. Researchers feel this is an important discovery since it may lead to greater motivation to find other means of treating the chronic pain of illnesses like fibromyalgia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that chronic pain is the primary cause of disability within the United States. Most patients come to the point where they use narcotic medications such as oxycodone, fentanyl, or morphine.
In this study, it was discovered that those patients taking the higher doses of these pain medications, in many cases double the amount of those on the lowest doses, had the greatest deficiencies for vitamin D while those on the lower amounts of narcotic medications had adequate levels of the vitamin. The vitamin-deficient patients described a lower degree of physical functioning and a perception of being in poor overall health. There was also a correlation between an increase in body mass index (BMI) and sinking levels of vitamin D. The results have been published in Pain Medicine.
Physical medicine and rehabilitation physician at the Mayo Clinic and lead author of the study Michael Turner, M.D., explains that vitamin D aids in developing bone and muscle strength. Many people, including those in the medical profession, tend not to realize that widespread pain and poor neuromuscular function can be the result of a vitamin D deficiency. Once doctors recognize vitamin D deficiency as the possible root of chronic pain, another avenue of treatment becomes available to suffering patients.
Turner and his team examined 267 patients from the Mayo Comprehensive Pain Rehabilitation Center in Rochester between February and December of 2006. The vitamin D levels of these chronic pain patients were analyzed at the time of their admission after which other parameters were assessed, such as pain levels, physical functioning, emotional distress, and health perception. Along with these parameters, other factors such as gender, diagnosis, age, and BMI were also recorded.
The researchers would like to see the results of this study followed by further research to assess how correcting the levels of vitamin D affects the quality of life of these patients. “Though preliminary, these results suggest that patients who suffer from chronic, diffuse pain and are on narcotics should consider getting their vitamin D levels checked. Inadequate levels may play a role in creating or sustaining their pain,” explains Dr. Turner.
Turner advises doctors to check the vitamin D levels of patients with chronic widespread pain that seems to be musculoskeletal in nature and responds with tenderness when palpated. “For example, many patients who have been labeled with fibromyalgia are, in fact, suffering from symptomatic vitamin D inadequacy.”