Intervention Review

Vitamin D for the treatment of chronic painful conditions in adults

  1. Sebastian Straube1,*,
  2. Sheena Derry2,
  3. R Andrew Moore2,
  4. Henry J McQuay2

Editorial Group: Cochrane Pain, Palliative and Supportive Care Group

Published Online: 20 JAN 2010

Assessed as up-to-date: 2 OCT 2009

DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007771.pub2

How to Cite

Straube S, Derry S, Moore RA, McQuay HJ. Vitamin D for the treatment of chronic painful conditions in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD007771. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007771.pub2.

Author Information

  1. 1

    University Medical Center Göttingen, Department of Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine, Göttingen, Germany

  2. 2

    University of Oxford, Pain Research and Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences (Nuffield Division of Anaesthetics), Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK

*Sebastian Straube, Department of Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine, University Medical Center Göttingen, Waldweg 37 B, Göttingen, D-37073, Germany.

Publication History

  1. Publication Status: Stable (no update expected for reasons given in 'What's new')
  2. Published Online: 20 JAN 2010




  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Plain language summary


Vitamin D is produced in the skin after sun-light exposure and can also be obtained through food. Vitamin D deficiency has recently been linked with a range of diseases including chronic pain. Observational and circumstantial evidence suggests that there may be a role for vitamin D deficiency in the aetiology of chronic pain conditions.


To assess the efficacy and adverse events of vitamin D supplementation in chronic painful conditions.

Search methods

We searched Cochrane CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE and the Oxford Pain Relief Database for studies to September 2009. This was supplemented by searching the reference lists of retrieved articles, textbooks and reviews.

Selection criteria

Studies were included if they were randomised double blind trials of vitamin D supplementation compared with placebo or with active comparators for the treatment of chronic pain conditions in adults.

Data collection and analysis

Two review authors independently selected the studies for inclusion, assessed methodological quality, and extracted data. Pooled analysis was not undertaken due to paucity and heterogeneity of data.

Main results

Four studies, with a total of 294 participants, were included. The studies were heterogeneous with regard to study quality, the chronic painful conditions that were investigated, and the outcome measures reported. Only one study reported a beneficial effect, the others found no benefit of vitamin D over placebo in treating chronic pain.

Authors' conclusions

The evidence base for the use of vitamin D for chronic pain in adults is poor at present. This is due to low quality and insufficient randomised controlled trials in this area of research.


Plain language summary

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Plain language summary

Vitamin D for the treatment of chronic painful conditions in adults

Vitamin D has a variety of roles in the body. It is made in the skin through the action of sunlight and can also be obtained from food. A lack of vitamin D has been implicated in a number of diseases, including chronic painful conditions. Additionally, associations of such diverse types of pain as headache, abdominal pain, knee pain, and back pain with season of the year and latitude provide indirect support for a role for vitamin D. The possibility of a link between vitamin D and chronic pain has attracted interest because - if it was true - vitamin D would be a cheap and relatively safe treatment for chronic pain. There is some evidence supporting this link but it is not of high quality and is at risk of bias. This review sought out high quality evidence from Randomised Controlled Trials on the treatment of chronic pain with vitamin D. There were few high quality studies of which only one reported a beneficial effect. At present, therefore, there is insufficient evidence for an effect of vitamin D in chronic pain conditions. More research is needed to determine if vitamin D is a useful pain treatment at all and if so, whether the effect is restricted to those who are vitamin D deficient, how much vitamin D is useful, in which conditions, and for how long.