In good news for those who experience chronic pain as a result of fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), researchers have found that taking vitamin D supplements could help to alleviate certain symptoms in these individuals.
There is currently no cure for the condition, with patients turning to solutions such as physical or cognitive behavioural therapy, and temporary drug intervention to manage their symptoms. Now, vitamin D supplementation could be added to the list.
The findings are all the more important as FMS does not just bring about chronic pain and fatigue. It can also impact a person's sleeping pattern and ability to concentrate, as well as possibly their mental health.
As a result of this, individuals with FMS can find they distance themselves from social events or struggle to keep up with their job.
The science behind the supplementation theory explains how a pre-hormone called calcifediol is produced in the liver by the enzyme cholecalciferol - rather, vitamin D3. It is converted into calcitriol, which is the active form of vitamin D, which is why measuring calcifediol in the blood is often used as an indicator of a person's vitamin D levels.
Accordingly, scientists believed that FMS patients with low levels of calcifediol in their blood might have benefited from additional vitamin D.
In a randomised, controlled trial of 30 women with the illness, between the first and 25th week of receiving vitamin D supplementation, those who received active treatment noted improvements in their physical functioning. Meanwhile, participants who had been given a placebo recorded no change.
However, the findings - published in Pain - showed that it did not appear to have an effect on depression or anxiety symptoms.
Lead researcher Florian Wepner from the Department of Orthopaedic Pain Management at Orthopaedic Hospital Vienna-Speising concluded: "FMS is a very extensive symptom complex that cannot be explained by a vitamin D deficiency alone.
"However, vitamin D supplementation may be regarded as a relatively safe and economical treatment for FMS patients and an extremely cost-effective alternative or adjunct to expensive pharmacological treatment, as well as physical, behavioural and multimodal therapies."
The expert went on to say that levels of the compound should be monitored in FMS patients - especially during the winter months - and raised when necessary.