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Muscle Stiffness & Low Vitamin D

By Marcia Frost

Vitamin D has been recognized as an important vitamin for metabolizing calcium, but studies are showing that the nutrient also has benefits of its own. Consider discussing with your physician the possibility of adding more vitamin D to your diet. If you don’t maintain sufficient levels of vitamin D you could experience muscle problems, though it does not appear to directly cause muscle stiffness.


The simplest way to get vitamin D is through direct sunlight. It is also found in fatty fish such as sardines and salmon and is also added into some of the things you consume, such as dairy products, cereals, breads and orange juice. It’s tough to get enough for the daily 15 mcg of vitamin D the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine recommends through those sources. Taking multivitamins or supplements with vitamin D can help you reach that dose.

Muscle Pain

The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University notes a number of studies have shown that a deficiency in vitamin D can cause muscle pain and weakness. One study, completed at a clinic in Minnesota, was done on patients who had previously reported musculoskeletal pain. Ninety-three percent of those participants had a vitamin D deficiency. The institute also cited a randomized controlled trial of elderly women that showed an increase in muscle strength of those given steady doses of vitamin D and calcium for three months.

Muscle Function

The Institute of Clinical Osteology conducted a study to better understand the effect of vitamin D on muscle function. As reported in Osteoporosis International, the research showed that the skin has a huge capacity for producing vitamin D and should provide the body with nearly all it needs of the nutrient, but it can be altered by factors that include age, weather and pigmentation. The study also concluded that vitamin D for muscle function works best when combined with calcium.

Interesting Fact

Vitamin D deficiency is not uncommon. A study at the McGill University Health Centre in the Research Institute’s Musculoskeletal Axis showed 59 percent of participants -- healthy women living in sunshine-filled California -- were vitamin D deficient. The published findings in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism indicated that the study was not conducted to show deficiency, but to show a link between low vitamin D levels, accumulation of fat in muscle tissue and loss of muscle strength.


While vitamin D does have benefits and might help you avoid muscle pain and possibly muscle stiffness, you should not take supplements without consulting with a healthcare professional who knows your medical history. A doctor can confirm the best dose for you to take. Taking too much vitamin D can cause calcium levels to rise to a dangerous level. This can have negative effects, causing kidney stones, bone loss and even calcification of the kidneys or heart.

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