The Big ‘D’

Lee PetrucciFor many people, December marks the start of some weirdly cyclical behaviour. Generally the normal routine goes out of the window in favour of over indulging in the festivities of office parties and social gatherings and a steady decline of physical activity in favour of hibernation in front of the fire and I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.  And so with the changes in our diets and lack of physical activity come the aches and ailments that arrive with the inevitability of a John Lewis Christmas advert.

You won’t be surprised then to learn that the winter months are responsible for an increase in back pain. The usual suspects are at fault for episodes of winter lumbago but there are others that may surprise you.

Inactivity is certainly a contributing factor to back pain….sitting at a desk for longer hours trying to get all those reports tied up before the festive period, or driving for hours on end up and down the country visiting Aunty Mildred and uncle Bob. Slouching on the sofa full to the brim with turkey watching Home Alone for the tenth time (the repeat Xmas movie always used to be the Great Escape when I was a kid) or perhaps the impromptu game of twister will do the damage! However, the unusual culprit of your winter ‘disc content’ (poor joke at back pain!), maybe the dark chilly days that we suffer until the clocks go forward (Sunday March 30th 2014 if you are interested).

You see in the Northern Hemisphere where the winter sun is too far away for UVB rays to reach us effectively, means we don’t get enough vitamin D. The ‘Big D’ is essential for calcium absorption and bone health among other things and inadequate amounts of vitamin D can result in a softening of bone surfaces, something called Osteomalacia, which causes pain. And guess what? The lower back seems to be particularly vulnerable! In fact a study of 360 patients with chronic back pain found all of them to have inadequate levels of vitamin D. And after taking vitamin D supplements for 3 months, symptoms were improved in 95% of the patients.

It is widely regarded that the current recommended adequate intake of vitamin D is out dated and too low and according to newer research, most people would benefit from a higher dosage, and people with chronic back pain would benefit from much higher dosages a day of supplemental vitamin D3 (also called cholecalciferol). Vitamin D has also been shown to reduce

the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis in women, aids the immune system and there has been some amazing research into ‘D’ benefits in everything from prostate cancer to high blood pressure. Vitamin D supplements are cheap and interact with very few medicines or other agents and are generally safe, however very high levels can be toxic so it is always wise to check with a healthcare professional before starting a new dietary supplement.

Now I am not suggesting for one minute that vitamin D should be viewed as a cure for all back pain conditions or a replacement for other pain-relief treatments. Obviously there are a multitude of conditions and problems that can cause and contribute to back pain (I have seen a lot of them). Instead my advice would be to see your Sports Therapist or Physiotherapist first and ascertain the nature of your back pain. We are well qualified at The Sports Injury Clinic to give you a thorough assessment and a plan for your recovery but extra vitamin D should be considered by everyone during the winter months, and especially for those of you who have back aches and pains.

On the other hand perhaps frequent winter pilgrimages to the Caribbean may be the answer?