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RCT: Vitamin D improves musculoskeletal pain in non-Western immigrants

Posted on: November 15, 2012   by  Kate Saley


A randomized controlled trial published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reports that vitamin D improves nonspecific musculoskeletal pain in non-Western immigrants.

Past research suggests a relationship between vitamin D levels and musculoskeletal complaints. Several studies report reduced pain after supplementation with various forms of vitamin D, however, randomized controlled trials have produced mixed results.

Dr Ferdinant Schreuder, MD, and colleagues wanted to see if high dose vitamin D supplementation improves nonspecific musculoskeletal pain in non-Western, vitamin D deficient immigrants.

The researchers recruited 84 non-Western immigrants born in the Middle East, Turkey, northern Africa, and Somalia, and their offspring currently living in the Netherlands, aged 18-60 years who visited their doctor for recurring or chronic musculoskeletal pain.

The researchers randomly assigned patients to one of three groups. One group was given vitamin D (150,000 IU) at baseline and 6 weeks, a second group was given vitamin D at baseline followed by a placebo at 6 weeks, and the third group was given a placebo at baseline and vitamin D at 6 weeks. Interviews were conducted at baseline, week 6, and week 12.

The results are as follows:

  • At week 6, the vitamin D group reported significant improvement in pain compared with the placebo group (34.9% vs 19.5% respectively, p=0.04)
  • At week 6, the vitamin D group reported significant improvement in their ability to walk stairs compared with the placebo group (21% vs 8.4% respectively, p=0.008)
  • Patients receiving vitamin D for 12 weeks were more likely to report improvement than those taking vitamin D for 6 weeks, although this trend was not significant

The study results support several past case reports, but differ from results reported from two US trials. The authors attribute the differing results to the fact that previous studies included patients with significantly higher baseline vitamin D status, in some cases used vitamin D2, and in one trial, “One-half of the placebo group had normalization of their 25-OH-D levels by exposure to sunshine.”

The authors conclude,

“Future investigation should involve greater numbers of participants and focus on longer follow-up, higher supplementation doses, and mental health.”


Schreuder F, Bernsen RMD, van der Wouden JC. Vitamin D supplementation for nonspecific musculoskeletal pain in non-western immigrants: A randomized controlled trial. Annals of Family Medicine. November 2012.

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