Got Back Pain? Try Getting Some Sun

Not getting enough sunshine? That could increase your chances of severe back pain.

In a new study from Korea, people with a lack of regular sun exposure were more likely to be deficient in vitamin D, and low vitamin D levels were tied to increased back and leg pain. City-dwellers and those suffering from another medical condition were also more likely to be deficient in vitamin D.

Earlier studies have shown that vitamin D deficiencies play a role musculoskeletal conditions. Researchers from Korea sought to investigate whether the same was true for patients with lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS), or a narrowing of the spinal canal.

In a group of 350 LSS patients, 74.3% were deficient in vitamin D. People with low levels of the vitamin were more likely to have osteoporosis, putting them at risk of falls and fractures.

Research suggests that vitamin D supplements can help people at risk of such injuries. In a study last year, vitamin D supplements reduced the risk of hip fractures in older adults by as much as 30%, and cut the risk of non-vertebral fractures by 14%. The vitamin could bolster both bone and muscle strength. In another recent study, older adults with high vitamin D levels had stronger, more robust muscles which decreased their fall and fracture risk.

So should you immediately start popping vitamin D supplements if you suffer from back pain? That depends on your age, medical history, level of sun exposure, and diet. If you're young and have a well-balanced diet, you may not be deficient in vitamin D, despite your back pain. It's best to consult with a health provider first to see whether you could benefit from supplements.


Bischoff-Ferrari H, et al. A pooled analysis of vitamin D dose requirements for fracture prevention. N Engl J of Med 2012; 367:40-49.

Kim TH, Lee BH, et al. Prevalence of vitamin d deficiency in patients with lumbar spinal stenosis and its relationship with pain. Pain Physician 2013;16(2):165-76.