If you want to stand up to your chronic back pain, try taking more Vitamin D. That’s the message of a review of 22 clinical investigations involving patients with back pain.

Study authors found low vitamin D levels in almost every patient with back pain. When the patients starting taking vitamin D supplements, however, the pain diminished or disappeared altogether.

The panel of experts that reviewed the studies suggests that vitamin D may be beneficial for pain because of its role in calcium absorption. Without enough D, bones soften, causing a painful condition called ostomalacia. The lower back seemed particularly vulnerable to this effect.

The researchers also say that the current recommendation for vitamin D intake, up to 600 IU daily, is outdated and too low. They suggest at least a daily dose of 1,000 IU for children and adults and 2,000 IU for those who have back pain.

Want even more incentive? Vitamin D is inexpensive, just seven to 10 cents a day. While it won’t interfere with most medications – corticosteroids, such as prednisone are an exception – you should always discuss plans to take any dietary supplement with your doctor just to be sure there’s no danger of interaction.

Your back may not be the only body part to benefit – people with knee osteoarthritis who increased their daily vitamin D intake also gained muscle strength and improved physical function.

Vitamin D-rich foods include fortified milk, orange juice, breakfast cereals, egg yolks, butter, salmon, herring, tuna and sardines. Sunshine is another source of vitamin D – as little as 10 minutes’ exposure can be enough to prevent deficiencies. Be cautious in the sun, though, arthritis drugs such as methotrexate and other common medications including those for blood pressure control can cause sun sensitivity.

The study review was posted in the June 2008 issue of the journal Pain and Treatment Topics.