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B12 & Joints

By Cassie M. Chew

Vitamin B12, a member of the B vitamins, the family of nutrients that support the process your body uses to make energy from the food you eat, is an essential nutrient that is most well known for preventing anemia. While your body uses vitamin B12 to maintain a healthy nervous system, produce red blood cells and make DNA, some physicians have used direct injections of the vitamin to treat deficiencies of the nutrient as well as to relieve inflammation of the joints.

B12 Injections

Even as vitamin B12 deficiency is rare, physicians have used injections of the vitamin to treat patients who show signs of a form of anemia that results from the body's inability to absorb vitamin B12 from the intestine. In addition, people who don't eat meat, dairy products or eggs may need B12 injections. In treatment for these health concerns, physicians may inject the vitamin into a patient's muscle tissue or just under his skin once a day for the first week, then every three to four days for two to three weeks, the National Institutes of Health says.

B12 And Joint Inflammation

Research conduct in the 1950s indicates that direct injections of vitamin B12 also may provide pain relief and healing for joints as treatment for conditions that include bursitis, an inflammation of the bursae, small fluid-filled pads that cushion your bones, and the tendons and muscles near your joints. Bursitis can affect the joints in your shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and heels. While inflammation in the joint may result from arthritis, injuries, overuse and repetitive stress are the most common causes of bursitis.

B12 Bursitis Treatment

Physicians have yet to develop a well-established protocol for treating joint pain from bursitis with vitamin B12. Nonetheless, Robert S. Rister, author of "Healing Without Medication," says that "the best approach is to get an injection of the vitamin from a nutritionally oriented health care practitioner and then prevent future deficiencies by taking 1 to 2 mg of the vitamin every day." Rister says that vitamin B12 works to stop inflammation in the joint by attaching itself to proteins that generally operate "as a kind of loading dock for a specialized subset of white blood cells known as neutrophils, which release chemical agents of pain and swelling."

B12 And Bone Health

In addition to relieving inflammation of the joints, maintaining vitamin B12 levels may strengthen your bones and prevent osteoporosis, a disorder that puts you at risk of bone fracture. The Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Massachusetts reported in 2005 that deficiency in vitamin B12 may be a major risk factor for osteoporosis. After measuring the bone mineral density and vitamin B12 levels of more than 2,500 men and women participating in the Framingham Osteoporosis Study, researchers at Tufts found that the participants with low vitamin B12 levels had lower bone mineral densities, which puts them at a greater risk for the disorder.

B12 Food Sources

Vitamin B12 is commonly found in fish, shellfish, meat and dairy products. Some breakfast cereals have been fortified with the vitamin. The amount of vitamin B12 you need each day depends on your age, with adults needing about 2.4 micrograms daily, according to the National Institutes of Healt. A day's supply of vitamin B12 can be obtained by eating a chicken breast along with a hard-boiled egg and a cup plain low-fat yogurt or a cup milk plus a cup raisin bran, MayoClinic.com says.

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