How vitamin D may help to reduce joint pain and steps to boost your vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D, also known as calciferol or ‘the sunshine vitamin’, is an important vitamin with many functions in the body. It encourages calcium absorption in the gut, helps to maintain strong bones, supports muscle function, regulates the immune system and helps to reduce inflammation. When the body is exposed to sunlight, cholesterol in the skin is converted into vitamin D, however, this process is less effective in winter and slows down in older age. It is difficult to obtain sufficient vitamin D from the diet alone as there are not many vitamin D-rich foods.
Studies suggest vitamin D supplementation may help to manage joint pain in conditions where inflammation is a feature, such as arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, or from general wear and tear of the bones and cartilage in aging.
Research has identified a positive correlation between vitamin D deficiency and arthritis and knee pain, as well as muscle pain and chronic pain. A recent large study also found that when combined with physiotherapy, vitamin D supplementation had a significant effect on reducing pain severity. This may be due to its role in regulating the immune system and managing inflammation.
5 steps to boost your vitamin D levels for less painful joints
1. Consider a supplement
A 10 microgram supplement is recommended for people between October/November and the end of March/beginning of April, to prevent deficiency during the darker months. Get your vitamin D levels checked before supplementing to find out if you are deficient or not and if so, to what extent. For a severe deficiency, you will need a short-term higher dose which your doctor can advise you on.
2. Avoid excessive high doses of vitamin D
Your body needs to be in balance and excessive doses of 4,000 IU or more, particularly long-term, can cause harmful effects including worse joint pain and bone health, due to increased calcium in the body.
3. Consume vitamin D-rich foods
Foods include oily fish, beef liver, eggs, fortified foods and sun-enriched mushrooms.
4. Get some sunlight
Being outdoors and enjoying some sunshine not only gives the mood a boost and helps with sleep, it is also a free way to naturally boost vitamin D levels. The best months for getting vitamin D this way are between April and September. Your body cannot overdose on vitamin D however short bursts of sun exposure are best and apply sunscreen before your skin goes red and starts to burn.
5. Combine with physiotherapy
Studies indicate that combining vitamin D supplementation with physical therapy is most effective for reducing joint pain. Speak to a health professional to find out what is available.
Vitamin D helps to keep bones healthy, regulates the immune system and manages inflammation. Being deficient in vitamin D could be contributing to your joint pain therefore it is best to get your levels checked. Optimise vitamin D levels by supplementing in winter, consuming oily fish, eggs and fortified foods, and getting some sun exposure.