Vitamin D is a hormone synthesized in the skin in the presence of sunlight. Like other hormones, vitamin D plays a role in a wide range of processes in the body. Here we review the possible role of vitamin D in nociceptive and inflammatory pain. In observational studies, low vitamin D levels have been associated with increased pain and higher opioid doses. Recent interventional studies have shown promising effects of vitamin D supplementation on cancer pain and muscular pain—but only in patients with insufficient levels of vitamin D when starting intervention. Possible mechanisms for vitamin D in pain management are the anti-inflammatory effects mediated by reduced cytokine and prostaglandin release and effects on T-cell responses. The recent finding of vitamin D-mediated inhibition of Prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) is especially interesting and exhibits a credible mechanistic explanation. Having reviewed current literature, we suggest that patients with deficient levels defined as 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OHD) levels <30 nmol/L are most likely to benefit from supplementation, while individuals with 25-OHD >50 nmol/L probably have little benefit from supplementation. Our conclusion is that vitamin D may constitute a safe, simple and potentially beneficial way to reduce pain among patients with vitamin D deficiency, but that more randomized and placebo-controlled studies are needed before any firm conclusions can be drawn.
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