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Vitamin D and headaches: A look at current evidence

Posted on: November 25, 2013   by  John Cannell, MD


Is there reason to think that vitamin D supplements may help headaches?

The question was first raised in 2009 in a case-series report when doctors reported that 8 patients with headaches and osteomalacia whose headaches all responded to vitamin D and calcium. The headaches left fairly quickly after the treatment was started. The doctors noted that all the headaches had been refractory to other treatment in the past.

Prakash S, Shah ND.  Chronic tension-type headache with vitamin D deficiency: casual or causal association? Headache. 2009 Sep;49(8):1214-22.

Next, some of the same doctors published an interesting review of latitude and seasonality of headaches, finding that headaches are more common at higher latitudes and are more common in the winter than the summer. They speculated that vitamin deficiency might be responsible for some headaches.

Prakash S, et al. The prevalence of headache may be related with the latitude: a possible role of Vitamin D insufficiency? J Headache Pain. 2010 Aug;11(4):301-7.

Next, a large cross-sectional study found a relationship between low vitamin D levels and tension headaches but no association for migraine headaches.

The odds ratio of having a headache was 1.20 for the lowest quartile as compared to the highest serum vitamin D quartile.

Kjaergaard M, et al. Association between headache and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D; the Tromsø Study: Tromsø 6.Headache. 2012 Nov-Dec;52(10):1499-505.

So far, no cohort or case-controlled epidemiological studies have been published on headache and no randomized controlled trials have been done using vitamin D on headache patients.

So far the data does not tell us about causation one way or the other. Headache patients could be going outside less frequently than non-headache patients, or vitamin D could indeed play a role in headache. Also, all the published data is consistent with UV radiation helping headaches, not just vitamin D by itself.

However, I remember 12 years ago, before I started vitamin D, I would use Tylenol or Advil fairly frequently for headache but I have used little of either in the last 12 years. I wonder what readers have found. Are your headaches less frequent or severe since starting on vitamin D?

2 Responses to Vitamin D and headaches: A look at current evidence

  1. [email protected]

    For one rare, violent type of headache, cluster headache, vitamin D is, so far, the ONLY way to eliminate it from starting. There are various ways to stop the cluster headache once it starts, but only vitamin D has been found to eliminate them from occurring. Success rate so far is greater than 80%. 10,000 IU of vitamin D was able to prevent them, until fall, when then needed to up the dose. http://is.gd/clustervitd

    VitaminDWiki has 8 other articles on headaches – many of which show the importance of Magnesium in addition to Vitamin D.

  2. John

    I get a headache after talking with someone that doesn’t accept that vitamin D is helpful to their health.

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