Vitamins, Minerals, and Pain

March 7th, 2018

In my experience, a large percentage of joint and muscle pain can be explained by–and attributed to– functional and structural issues in the body, bu they are not the only reason you may exhibit symptoms. Deficiencies in particular vitamins and minerals can also be an underlying contributing factor, if not the sole reason for, symptoms including back pain, other joint pain, headaches, muscle tightness, cramps, spasms, and tingling sensations. This article will outline a few of those vitamins/minerals, why a person might be deficient, and what symptoms they may experience due to the particular deficiency.

VITAMIN D

This essential vitamin plays a role in may bodily functions, particularly those that require calcium to operate correctly, this includes proper functioning and health of your bones, muscles, immune, and nervous system. Reasons that a person may be deficient in vitamin D are as follows:

  • A diet lacking foods which contain the vitamin, including — eggs, fish, mushrooms, organ meats, and fortified foods (milk, cheese, bread, cereals)
  • Lack of adequate exposure to the sun. It is important to note that seasonal changes in the angle of the sun, living further from the equator, having dark skin, and using sunscreen and protective clothing can all negatively impact vitamin D production from your skin from sunlight.
  • Being elderly. As we age, the ability of our skin to produce vitamin D declines, even if we get adequate sun exposure. Likewise, the kidney’s ability to turn vitamin D to its active form also diminishes with age.
  • Having a disease which impacts nutrient absorption in the gut. Things like celiac, Chron’s, etc. can all prevent your body from absorbing vitamin D, even if you have a diet rich in sources of it.
  • Being overweight. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, which means that it can bind to excess fat in our bodies, preventing proper utilization.

Symptoms of deficiency include:

  • Bone, joint, and muscle pain, as well as weakness
  • Mood changes including anxiety and depression
  • Fatigue

Magnesium

Along side calcium and potassium, magnesium plays an important role in many bodily functions required for overall health. It is particularly important to mention in this context because of its relationship to vitamin D. Magnesium is a critical ingredient for the metabolism of vitamin D, and as such can be depleted as we get more vitamin D via sun exposure, diet, and/or supplementation. It comes to reason then, that a person may exhibit symptoms of vitamin D deficiency solely due to inadequate levels of magnesium!

Bodies are weird… Anyhow, reasons a person may be low in magnesium:

  • Diets lacking food containing magnesium including — nuts, seeds, and dark green vegetables
  • Diseases affecting nutrient absorption and kidney function, including diabetes
  • As mentioned above, high levels of vitamin D (usually do to inappropriate supplementation)
  • Alcoholism

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency are subtle, and often only manifest from extreme deficiency or chronic depletion. That being said, they include:

  • Nausea and lack of appetite
  • Fatigue and muscle weakness
  • Muscle spasm, cramping, and tremors in extreme deficiency states

Vitamin B12

This vitamin plays an important role in DNA synthesis, healthy blood cell production, and nervous system function. It is uncommon for people in the US to have low levels of B12, but is possible under the following conditions:

  • Diet lacking food containing B12, including — eggs, fish, meat, poultry, and dairy products
  • Inability to absorb the vitamin from food due to advanced age and diseases of the digestive tract including — pernicious anemia, gastritis, Chron’s, celiac, and others.
  • Removal of portions of the stomach in bariatric procedures
  • Long time use of stomach acid reducing medications
  • Parasitic infection caused by consumption of raw or undercooked fish
  • Alcoholism

Symptoms of deficiency include:

  • Weakness, fatigue, and light headedness
  • Numbness and/or tingling sensations, particularly of the hands and feet
  • Balance issues, particularly when walking
  • Vision problems
  • Heart palpitations and shortness of breath
  • Cognitive impairments including memory loss, and depression (which can elevate chronic pain states)

These are a mere few of the vitamin and mineral deficiencies which can in their own way contribute to a patient’s pain. If you suspect that they may play a role in any symptoms you are experiencing I urge you to discuss them with a physician so that adequate testing can be performed to confirm the suspicions and that appropriate treatment can be rendered under medical supervision.

I do not advocate for the random–often times excessive–dosing of vitamins, minerals, and herbs for many reasons. Their use cases are often limited and should be proven, they can be dangerous when taken in excess, often times require co-factors, and can also obscure underlying diseases which require diagnosis and management. So please do not begin supplementing anything without discussing need, drug interactions, and dosages without consulting a professional.