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The Sunny Side of Vitamin D Supplements

There is a reason that calcium is most often combined with vitamin D in supplements. Vitamin D is needed for the body to be able to use the calcium to build bone. Too little vitamin D can be almost as bad for your bones as too little calcium. Vitamin D deficiency causes a condition called osteomalacia. Osteomalacia makes the bones soft, which can cause deformities and weakness. Luckily vitamin D is easy to get: just step into the sunshine. Direct sunlight causes your body to make its own vitamin D.

In some places, soaking up the rays is just not possible--for example, along the Arctic Circle during winter. But sunny desert countries see problems with vitamin D deficiency, too. People who live there commonly cover up and try to avoid the outdoors because it is just too sunny and hot. This is especially true of women in Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, who traditionally wear full body coverings every time they go outdoors.

A group of Saudi Arabian doctors checked vitamin D levels in 360 patients, most of them women. All of the patients had low back pain with no specific cause (idiopathic low back pain). Idiopathic low back pain is known to happen in people with osteomalacia caused by too little vitamin D. All the patients had X-rays to rule out other causes of back problems. They had a blood test to determine their vitamin D levels. The doctors found that 83 percent of the patients had low levels of vitamin D. The doctors then put all the patients on three months of vitamin D supplements.

After three months of taking vitamin D, the blood tests were repeated. All 360 patients had normal levels of vitamin D, and 95 percent of them reported that their low back pain was gone. This is a dramatic response to a simple treatment. The authors recommend that doctors in areas where people may not get enough sun exposure should be sure to check the vitamin D levels in patients with idiopathic low back pain.


Saud Al Faraj, MD, and Khalaf Al Mutairi, MD. Vitamin D Deficiency and Chronic Low Back Pain in Saudi Arabia. In Spine. January 15, 2003. Vol. 28. No. 2. Pp. 177-179.

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*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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