Vitamin D Essential For Patients With Spinal Cord Injuries

Category: Spinal Cord Injury | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: November 14, 2016

Vitamin D for Spine Health

Recent medical research suggests that sufficient intake of Vitamin D can help keep conditions like depression and fatigue at bay after a spinal cord injury.

Vitamin D and Spine Injury

What’s more, researchers found that higher doses of Vitamin D supplements were associated with better pain scores than those who took a low dose supplement in the wake of a spinal cord injury.

“We need to screen everyone with spinal cord injury for Vitamin D,” said lead researcher Dr. Gavin Williams, a physical medicine and rehabilitation resident in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Stanford University. “We should be more aggressive with supplementation than current NIH guidelines suggest.”

To get a better understanding of how to manage spinal cord injuries and the related conditions that sometimes arise out of a spine injury, researchers examined vitamin levels in patients who were dealing with an acute or chronic spinal cord injury. 20 patients with an acute spinal cord injury and 22 with a chronic spinal cord injury were examined at the outset, and all patients were below the recommended level of Vitamin D at the beginning of the study. Patients were either assigned to the low-dose Vitamin D supplement group or the high dose Vitamin D group, and patients were given the appropriate levels of Vitamin D over the course of six months.

Research Findings

Researchers tracked certain biomarkers at the 1-month, 3-month and 6-month intervals. The biomarkers they tracked were depression, fatigue and pain scores, all using scientific and medically-trusted models. Here’s what they found:

  • All patients experienced a significant increase in average Vitamin D levels in their bodies.
  • Individuals in the high dose Vitamin D group saw larger decreases in their baseline depression scores, which means they have fewer depressive symptoms.
  • Individuals in the high dose Vitamin D group also saw greater improvements in their anxiety scores than the low dose group, again meaning they expressed fewer symptoms of anxiety.
  • The findings were most significant at 3 months.
  • One of the reasons doctors focused on Vitamin D is because previous studies have uncovered that individuals with a spinal cord injury are between four and five times more likely to have insufficient Vitamin D intake compared to the average person.

“Vitamin D doesn’t just contribute to bone health, but cardiopulmonary healthy as well, which is very important in spinal cord patients because they’re not able to exercise as well as able-bodied people,” said Dr. Williams. “We’re looking for one more factor we can optimize.”

So although the study was small, it offers some key insights into how we can best manage some of the psychological effects a spinal cord injury may have on a patient. Both doctors and patients with spinal cord injuries should be aware of their Vitamin D intake if they want to have better outcomes post-injury.

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