Patients with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) typically suffer from chronic pain and fatigue. For FMS patients with low vitamin D levels, research shows that vitamin D supplements may be able to improve physical functioning, thereby offering a cost-effective alternative or adjunct to other treatments.
Along with pain and fatigue, individuals diagnosed with FMS experience sleep disorders, morning stiffness, poor concentration as well as occasional mental symptoms such as anxiety or depression. These can have a significant impact on quality of life, along with loss of employment and even withdrawal from society.
While there is no cure for FMS, some of its symptoms may be alleviated by physical therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and other forms of treatment.
25-hydroxyvitamin D is a pre-hormone produced in the liver by the enzyme cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) that is converted to calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D. The concentration of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in blood is considered the best indicator of vitamin D status.
Some health experts believe that vitamin D supplementation can reduce the degree of chronic pain experienced by FMS patients with low levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, along with improving other symptoms although the evidence is missing at present.
A recent study set out to determine whether raising the levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D would alleviate the pain and improve symptoms. In a controlled trial, 30 women with FMS and with low 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were randomly assigned to either a treatment or control group.
The goal for patients in the treatment group was to bring their blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D back to normal via oral supplement treatment. Their blood levels were re-evaluated after five and 13 weeks, and supplement dose was reviewed based on the results. Blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D were also measured 25 weeks after starting the supplementation regime.
The treatment group improved significantly in their physical functioning between the first and 25th week, while the control group did not. The treatment group also scored significantly better than control patients on a Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) on the question of ‘morning fatigue’.
However, there were no significant changes in depression or anxiety symptoms in FMS patients after treatment with 25-hydroxyvitamin D supplements.
Clearly, FMS is a very complex disorder that cannot be explained by vitamin D deficiency alone. However, vitamin D supplementation is a relatively safe and inexpensive treatment that can be used as an extremely cost-effective alternative or adjunct to standard therapies.
Additionally, this study shows that vitamin D levels must be monitored regularly in FMS patients, especially in the winter season, and supplemented as necessary.