Vitamin D Deficiency: The Underlying Cause of My Back Pain and Muscle Cramps

  • Back pain and muscle cramps were initially attributed to my desk job.
  • Upon consultation with an orthopedic doctor, it was revealed that I had a vitamin D deficiency.
  • Improved symptoms were achieved through the use of supplements, spending time outdoors, and regular stretching.

As I started my writing career three years ago, the pandemic also began. With limited outdoor activities, I found myself spending most days at my desk. Eventually, I started experiencing nagging pain in my lower back and tailbone while trying to focus on work. Ignoring it at first, I soon began to suffer severe muscle cramps in my legs, especially when climbing stairs.

Little did I know, these symptoms were not normal everyday aches, but indications of a more serious issue.

Unable to ignore the pain any longer, I sought the advice of an orthopedic doctor. Through blood work, it was discovered that I had a severe vitamin D deficiency. The recommended solution was a weekly oral supplement of 60,000 IU of vitamin D for six months.

In addition to the supplements, my doctor advised spending 15 minutes outside each morning to absorb sunlight safely and provided a list of stretching exercises to alleviate pain and muscle tension in my back and legs. These exercises aimed to improve flexibility and posture.

After approximately three weeks, I noticed a significant improvement in my pain and cramps. I was able to tolerate prolonged periods of sitting much better than before. This experience taught me the importance of finding the right solution at the right time.

The Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is synthesized by our bodies when exposed to sunlight. It can also be obtained from certain foods such as fatty fish, fish oils, egg yolks, cheese, and liver. Despite its significance for bone, muscle, and overall well-being, vitamin D deficiencies are often overlooked. However, taking supplements can help mitigate this deficiency.

An analysis of multiple studies conducted between 2000 and 2022 revealed that approximately 15.7% of the global population had low levels of vitamin D. With the prevalence of remote work and indoor office settings, spending most of our days indoors has become common, increasing the risk of vitamin D deficiency. Other factors can also contribute to this problem.

“Low vitamin D intake from food sources, inadequate sunlight exposure, and certain health conditions are among the many reasons for vitamin D deficiency,” explains Michelle Pearlman, a physician nutrition specialist and co-founder of the Prime Institute. “I always emphasize the importance of maintaining normal nutrient levels to my patients, as some deficiencies can lead to irreversible health problems.”

Recognizing Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency

If you suspect a vitamin D deficiency, Pearlman recommends watching out for symptoms such as bone pain, muscle weakness, fatigue, depression, and slow wound healing. However, these symptoms are often mistaken for other conditions or simply attributed to aging.

Vitamin deficiencies can affect individuals of all body types. Contrary to common belief, malnutrition does not solely apply to underweight individuals, and many people struggling with excess weight can still fall into the malnourished category.

Risk factors for vitamin and mineral deficiencies include consuming calorie-rich, nutrient-poor foods and beverages like sugary sodas, coffee with milk and sugar, and fast food.

Vitamin D deficiency is often referred to as a “silent epidemic” due to the delayed onset of obvious symptoms, which may take months or years to manifest. Many of these symptoms overlap with those of other conditions, making it challenging to identify the underlying issue. A deficiency in vitamin D can also lead to low calcium and phosphorus levels, resulting in bone pain and muscle cramps.

Pearlman shares, “Routine blood work often reveals vitamin deficiencies, including low levels of vitamin D and B12. Severe vitamin D deficiency can impact calcium and phosphorus absorption, ultimately leading to bone and muscle weakness.”

Managing Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency

If diagnosed with low vitamin D levels, your doctor may prescribe supplements, increased sun exposure, and dietary changes. Food sources rich in vitamin D include fish-liver oils, fatty fish, liver and fat from aquatic mammals, milk, and eggs.

Pearlman explains, “Most individuals will require additional supplementation beyond dietary adjustments. Treatment options include vitamin D2 or vitamin D3, depending on the severity of the deficiency and the patient’s preference for daily or weekly dosages.”

My personal journey with vitamin D deficiency has underscored the importance of being attuned to our bodies. It serves as a reminder that seemingly minor symptoms should never be disregarded.


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