Vitamin D supplementation may improve back pain disability in vitamin D deficient and overweight or obese adults

Sharmayne R.E. Brady, Negar Naderpoor, Maximilian P.J. de Courten, Robert Scragg, Flavia Cicuttini, Aya Mousa, Barbora de Courten

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Back pain is currently the greatest cause of disability worldwide, and there are very limited therapeutic options available. Vitamin D deficiency and obesity are both risk factors for back pain. The few randomised controlled trials examining the effects of vitamin D supplementation on back pain have methodological limitations and largely include non-vitamin D deficient participants. Thus, the aim of this study was to determine whether vitamin D supplementation improves back pain symptoms in vitamin D deficient and overweight or obese, otherwise healthy adults. Sixty-five overweight or obese adults (BMI ≥ 25 kg/m2) with vitamin D deficiency (25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentrations ≤50 nmol/L) were randomised to a bolus oral dose of 100,000 IU followed by 4000 IU cholecalciferol/day or matching placebo for 16 weeks. We measured 25(OH)D concentrations (chemiluminescent immunoassays) and self-reported back pain (Chronic Pain Grade Questionnaire) before and after the intervention. Lifestyle habits including sun exposure, physical activity, and diet were collected using questionnaires. Fifty-four participants completed the study, of which 49 had complete data for back pain and were included in the present analyses (31 M/18 F; mean ± SD age: 31.8 ± 8.9 years; BMI: 31.1 ± 4.5 kg/m2). After the 16-week intervention, 25(OH)D levels increased significantly with vitamin D supplementation compared with placebo (55.7 ± 20.9 versus 3.9 ± 14.4 nmol/L, respectively, p < 0.001). There were no significant differences between vitamin D and placebo groups in change in back pain intensity or disability scores (all p > 0.05). However, in those with 25(OH)D concentrations <30 nmol/L at baseline (n = 20), there was a significantly greater reduction in back pain disability scores in the vitamin D group compared with placebo, after adjusting for important covariates known to affect vitamin D status and/or back pain (b [95%CI] = -11.6 [-22.4, -0.8], p = 0.04). Our findings suggest that vitamin D supplementation in overweight or obese and markedly vitamin D deficient adults (25(OH)D <30 nmol/L) may improve back pain disability. Although treating severe vitamin D deficiency is recommended for optimising bone health, this study suggests it may also improve back pain. Hence, testing for vitamin D deficiency in those with back pain who are overweight or obese may be warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-217
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


  • Back pain
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Randomised controlled trial
  • Vitamin D

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