A recent study performed between several European institutions proposes a possible association between a deficiency in vitamin D and male chronic widespread pain (CWP). These findings, “Low vitamin D and the risk of developing chronic widespread pain: results from the European male ageing study,” were published in BMC Musculoskelet Disord journal.
In the United Kingdom, about 10 percent of the population suffers from CWP with fibromyalgia, accounting for one of the main CWP forms. The condition is characterized by musculoskeletal pain that lasts beyond the expected period of healing.
Both physical and psychological factors contribute to the development of CWP. However, the causes and underlying mechanism of the condition are complex and still poorly understood. Some studies have suggested a vitamin D deficiency as a risk factor for the development of CWP, while others found no evident link.
“Results of observational studies assessing the relationship between vitamin D and musculoskeletal pain are somewhat inconsistent, with some, though not all, reporting a significant association between low vitamin D and CWP in specific groups,” the authors wrote. “Similarly, in fibromyalgia, a sub-type of CWP, some studies suggest an association with vitamin D deficiency, whilst others do not.”
To clarify the possible relationship between low levels of vitamin D and the risk of CWP development in middle-age and older men, researchers analyzed data from 3,369 males aged 40-79, taken from the baseline arm of the European Male Aging Study (EMAS). The participants were recruited from eight European EMAS centers, then assessed at baseline through criteria including lifestyle, health factors, physical characteristics, and blood testing.
Pain incidence was evaluated at baseline and after 4.3 years through standard methodologies used for fibromyalgia. The levels of patients’ serum vitamin D were examined and the relationship between baseline vitamin D and the incidence of CWP were determined. Among all participants, 2,313 males with a mean age of 58.8 years completed the study.
The results suggested that 151 (6.5 percent) patients suffered from CWP at follow-up and 577 (24.9 percent) had no pain at both baseline and follow-up. After adjusting some parameters such as age, center, and physical performance, the patients with lower vitamin D levels developed more CWP when compared to patients with higher levels of vitamin D. However, when data was adjusted with other factors like body mass index (BMI) or depression, the association became non-significant.
The authors concluded that “in this population study, men with very low vitamin D (25-(OH) D <15.6 ng/mL) at baseline were at significantly increased risk of having developed CWP at follow-up, though this appears to be related to other adverse health factors, particularly raised BMI and depression.”