man with leg cramp, muscle cramps disappear

Q. I’ve had extreme chronic pain in my lower back, pelvis, hips and legs for nearly four years. Lying flat was agony so I had to sleep propped up on a love seat.

I went to many doctors who said there was nothing wrong with me. Then I found a rheumatologist who checked my vitamin D and found it was extremely low.

I’ve been taking 1,600 IUs of vitamin D a day and have been feeling much better and happier. At this rate I think I’ll be about back to normal in six months. It’s terrible that anyone should suffer for so long from this. If in doubt, get your vitamin D checked!

A. Vitamin D deficiency is common and is often underestimated as a cause of chronic pain. Low levels of this vitamin can contribute to arthritis, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and high blood pressure. In a high-tech society where most people work indoors and wear sunscreen whenever they are outside, vitamin D insufficiency may be far more common than most doctors suspect.

We discussed this topic in depth on our radio show with two of the country’s leading vitamin D experts, James Dowd, MD, and Michael Holick, PhD, MD. They provide a detailed discussion of testing and treating vitamin D deficiency.

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  1. audrey

    I take 1.12 mg of synthrod. the dr, put me on 50,000 mg of vitamind3, n\I was on the vitamin for 5 months 1 pill a week. Then I started having all kinds of simptons I did not like,so I stopped.would it be better for me to go on a lower dose,maybe 1 a day.Can you help me?I tell the doctor but they don’t do nothing,keep telling everything is normal,but I no better.

  2. audrey w

    I take 1.12 mg of synthrod. the dr, put me on 50,000 mg of vitamind3, n\I was on the vitamin for 5 months 1 pill a week. Then I started having all kinds of simptons I did not like,so I stopped.would it be better for me to go on a lower dose,maybe 1 a day.Can you help me?I tell the doctor but they don’t do nothing,keep telling everything is normal,but I no better.


    I have had severe leg pain for the past 3 years. I usually study when I am walking but now I can’t. The pain spread from the toes and gradually to calf muscles. Now the pain persists there. I cannot stand or walk for more than 10 minutes. Due to this condition I was taken to an ayurveda doctor. He said the pain is due to my food habits since I don’t eat fish or meat. I am a vegetarian for 20 years. He prescribed some medicines but of no use. Then to a siddha doctor and finally allopathy. The doctor asked me to check my vitamin D levels. I was in fact deficient. My levels were 15. I began taking vitD supplements. Then the level increased to 30 and I was feeling much better.

    The doctor said that it would take a very long time to cure. I stopped taking pills. I need to know what food I can eat so as to completely get rid of this pain. Can somebody help me? I was a plus two student when I had this pain. The pain ruined my years I could not concentrate on my studies.I could not fulfill my desires because I was not healthy. I can’t bear this pain any more.

  4. Pavan

    I have had my Vitamin D test done as I have been going through severe leg pain. Vitamin D value as 9. Normal range (30-70). Let me tell what the symptoms are: pins and needle sensation in upper thigh joints initially, during walking or standing position, knee joints hurt, cannot stretch the thighs, muscles are painful, and pain in the buttocks.

    I was recommended weekly dosage of 60000 IU for 12 weeks. It been 4 weeks I am seeing some improvement.

  5. yash
    186 rambali nagar (indore)

    My leg is paining very badly because of vitamin d less in my body what to do

  6. Trisdina

    I had a sudden lump/swelling in my back that had me in immense pain, and I went to two doctors that declared it must have been an infection but there wasn’t any redness around my lump and no cut to indicate an infection because they had absolutely no idea what was wrong with my back. I finally found a doctor that did blood tests and found out my vitamin D was extremely low. I’ve been on vitamin D supplements and muscle relaxers for the pain. It’s been about two months and I still get swelling, and in the morning, I need pain medicine but it’s improving. My levels were really low so recovery will take a bit longer but instead of being in pain all day it’s just a simple fix of muscle relaxer in the morning and I’m good to go the rest of the day. I do get pain in my legs before bed but that’s improving as well. Definitely get your vitamin D levels checked for chronic pain. The answer may literally be as simple as a low dose or deficiency of a vitamin.

  7. Kusum

    After 11 clock at night I cannot sleep because of my leg pain. Full night I try to sleep but cannot sleep. Pl tell what can I do.

  8. Lisa

    My 15 year old daughter has just had bloods done and has vitamin d level of 15 she has upper leg pain and foot pain she’s had flu symptoms for about a month x she is taking 1000 supplitment every 2 weeks for 6 weeks then has to maintain . Is this enough to make her feel better

  9. Theresa

    I went almost 15 years with severe pain in my legs, spine, feet neck and constant headaches. Got to where I could not function or see that well. Went to many doctors and hosp. They looked at me like I was crazy. They first diagnosed me with cervical stenosis and sent me to a surgeon. He asked why was I here, surgery not necessary, he then sent me to a neurologist he looked at me like I was crazy. So because they couldn’t find anything wrong, I got labeled as an alcoholic and drug addict, and I don’t do either.

    So they finally sent me to a Rheumatologist he discovered I was vitamin d deficient and put me on 50,000 units of vitamin d once a week. My eyesight improved, my headaches are gone for the most part, a lot of the pain I had diminished, and I was able to function better. Finally went back to work part time after not being able to do anything for more than a year. Getting my levels checked in June to see where I am at. I do feel so much better, and I can function better. Still hurt but no where near like a year ago.

    Vitamins are so important You don’t get near what you need out of food or the sun. Our food is too genetically altered, and the sun is blocked by pollution, which makes it hard to get what you need.

  10. Gail
    madison wisconsin

    i have been diagnosed with breast cancer 16 years ago. During that time they found that I also had hepatitis C.i was treated first for the breast cancer then interferon and riboviron for the hep C. Then within months the severe pain began. I have suffered terribly with episodes usually at night where I just hurt everywhere, every bone, muscle, joint even skin hurts. Even my hair follicles hurt. Sounds crazy. I’m 64. I was in a MVA when I was 27 broke pelvis, both legs Tibet and fib.i have had my right knee replaced 5 years ago and now 4 months ago I had a total ankle replacement. All I know is that at times it’s difficult to live in all this pain. They say I have fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, vit D deficient, osteopenia, and osteoarthritis ….all I know is usually the pain keeps me slowed down or in a chair till about 10am every day. Then it might settle down as the day progresses but some nights are so horrible. My spine is on fire. Every bone and every muscle hurt severely……where do I start? I have good health insurance but the dr just treats me like a small child who needs to be ha delved with care. I don’t like it. I’m a nurse, I can handle true explanations and answers, but no one will talk to be, no one will help find appropriate answers, so therefore no appropriate treatment. If I do nothing the pain gets worse, and if I overdo it I will be in severe pain for days…… Help…that’s all I have to say….someone please help me.

  11. Rebecca

    Exact same thing! I quit smoking in 20/2013 and ever since then depression and horrendous foot pain it literally has crippled me. I can hardly do chores, exercise much less work. I have to have sit breaks or I’ll cry ( it’s happened many times and I have a high threshold for pain ) but I got my blood test last year nothing came back I just got diagnosed with depression and plantar fasciitis which I found strange the whole time considering the time it started and the both came at the same time but no one would listen to me. So I moved and went to a new doctor told her everything I just said was gonna do all the normal tests and vitamin d. Iam vitamin d deficient. I took the pill the other morning have had zero foot or back pain, started eating less, even in a better mood. I’m so happy I found out what was wrong. I quit going outside as much cause I didn’t smoke anymore whether it was underlying issue kept at bay due to me constantly going outside for a cig break is beyond me but would make sense. I just am so glad I have a solution and I’ll never complain about my body again and always keep it healthy cause if it fails u ur screwed.

  12. Jean B.

    Six years ago my feet began to hurt whenever I walked, then my shins became involved, then my hips and femurs. It was getting so bad it kept me awake at night and in tears. By chance my endocrinologist had gone to a seminar which said so many endocrinology patients have low vitamin D levels. So he tested me and it was way low like 13. He treated me with high doses of D for several months and now I take 4,000 units a day with Calcium [the kind with added Genestin] and magnesium. The pain subsided within two months and I gradually got much stronger and was able to take walks. I drink almond milk as well. My osteoporosis was entirely eliminated. I don’t even have osteopenia now. Yes, osteoporosis can cause leg pain.

  13. kc

    Try going to an acupuncture person who does trigger point therapy. extremely small needles to break through the scar tissue to allow it to be more pliable. A Pain clinic will also offer this. Injecting with steroid may help but will be temporary and needed again. There is a limit to how many steroid injections you can get. Also look up Prolotherapy.

  14. p prasuna

    I am 28 years old, suffering severe leg pain.previously I also suffered with chickengunea but its clear now. still continuously pain my leg. plz suggest how can I reduce my pain? previously doctor said that control my weight.

  15. CD

    A bone mineral density test is necessary if you have vitamin D deficiency, since calcium could have resorbed from your bones over the years and you might be suffering from osteopenia or even osteoporosis which is causing the bone pain.
    Scientifically speaking, low vitamin D > less calcium and magnesium absorption from diet > low levels in blood > parathyroid hormone (PTH) resorbs calcium stored in bones to maintain a constant level in blood. This is one hypothesis.
    I think vitamin D supplementation alone without calcium and magnesium is not good because very high vitamin D levels could even cause calcium resorption from bones. It is all about homoeostasis.
    I am 30/male at the edge of osteoporosis! Do a bone mineral density test to check your bone status. Ask your doctor before taking any supplementation.
    Get well.

  16. Kulvinder

    Almost for 2 years I’m having legs pain and sever burning pain in feet and pain In fingers and toes. I can’t sleep at night. Going to see neurologist if there is any nerve pinched. B6 & 12 are fine. Any suggestion… after work I just sit after dinner and go to bed cause this pain is really bad and can’t stand it. I’m not diabetic no cholesterol but I do have hypertension. Please help….

  17. Ba

    Burning and shooting pain from thigh to knee for several months. Dr. Has had me on Ibuprofen for the past few months. When pushing on side of hip area very painful. X-rays show nothing abnormal. Some nights I wake up with burning pain in my thigh area. Bloodwork shoes vitamin d level 18 so I have been put on one pill a week for a month with follow-up bloodwork when finished with pills. Strength is 1.25 mg (50,000 units). Doing my second pill today. Hoping for results to relieve the pain.

  18. Marie

    Hi I just want to know have anyone vitamin D deficiency caused Breast pain like I have along with bone pain all over my body.

  19. Brianna Morr.

    At school, I’ve been hanging out in the classroom too long. That included breaks such as lunch and recess. Now I feel the pain you’ve been experiencing, it’s not a good feeling.
    I went to several doctors and the said the same thing over and over again. 1. Go outside because the sun-light strengthens your bones. 2. Drink plenty of milk to also help strengthen your bones. 3. Eat vitamin d tablets. If you realize that the doctors were actually hitting the main target. You must get more vitamin d.
    I started to notice it actually helped quite a lot in a while. Hope this advice will work for you as it works for me. :)

    • Barbara
      New orleans

      My doctors diagnosed me with vitamin D deficiency. I have breast pain and lower leg pain for the past year. He put me on vitamin D supplements one tablet for 12 weeks which has not helped at all. I have leg weakness with pain that hurt when I get up after sitting for an hours. Because of the lack of activity I believe I am loosing calcium from my bones. I can see white sediment in my urine. Next doctor visit I will ask for a one density scan.

  20. MN

    Look into taurine supplementation for your wife’s fatty liver. You’ll be surprised to find that even though it’s only a nutrient, it can treat fatty liver very effectively and it’s also helpful for diabetes.
    There are no recorded side effects to taurine, but ask your doctor about it just to be sure. :) For me, taurine has been a miracle supplement for my spasms and body aches.
    Peoples Pharmacy response: here is an abstract with some information on this amino acid:
    Re: Vitamin D deficiency
    Anyone who has a hard time getting their Vitamin D levels to stay up should look into the following considerations:
    – Vitamin D is integral to calcium homeostasis (balance of calcium in your bones vs. free calcium in your blood and tissues) so it has a very complicated interaction with other things.
    – You need to have adequate magnesium (the vast majority of people are deficient!) so MILD supplementation of magnesium should be helpful. Speak with your doctor about this, it’s not easy to gauge! Vitamin D deficiency can cause magnesium deficiency, and magnesium deficiency can cause Vitamin D deficiency.
    – Magnesium deficiency is also associated with potassium deficiency. Boosting my magnesium a little bit (I take a mild dose of 200mg magnesium citrate daily, rest comes from diet) presumably helped my potassium levels even though I did not take additional potassium.
    Note: Don’t over-supplement magnesium! Many antacids give you a high dose of magnesium, for example. Check with your doctor!
    – Calcium is needed, but nowhere near what most people think. Most people think you need 2x calcium compared to magnesium, but this is WRONG (look it up by searching for calcium-magnesium ratio). It’s probably best NOT to supplement calcium, as it causes issues. It’s best to get it from diet.
    – Dietary magnesium should be separated from calcium – consume them at different times, as they compete for absorption in the gut!
    – Vitamin K2 is also required for Vitamin D metabolism and calcium homeostasis. K2 reverses soft tissue and vascular calcification as well as its role in clotting. This is not the same as K1 (found in leafy green vegetables). K2 is found in meats like poultry and special foods like Natto. Look up food sources of K2 to find something appropriate for you!
    – Vitamin D is fat soluble, so take it with a slightly fatty meal to help absorb it, like chicken or cheese.
    – Taurine enhances absorption of Vitamin D, magnesium, and calcium, as well as fats. This is a simple nutrient that most people don’t get enough of. Ask your doctor about supplementing!
    I hope this helps!

  21. Princy John

    I’m 30 years old and I’m a homemaker for last 2 year I was suffering from lower back and leg pain sometimes it become so difficult that I can’t even sit on the bed but last 3 weeks before I came to know that my vit d level is only 3 and I m taking vit-d 1000 iu capsule daily but still I cannot sleep due to pain in my leg I don’t feel backache when ever I take a high dose of pain killers but after taking pain killers still I cannot sleep well due to pain in my legs can u suggest what to do.

    • Jean B.

      John, you really need to check with a doctor about the dosage you are taking. If your D level is really only 3 you are probably SEVERELY deficient and may need to have some therapeutic doses and probably much higher maintenance doses after that as well. I was taking 1000 a day before I was diagnosed with a score of 13 and THAT was considered severely deficient. Some people just do not absorb it well. Usually they want you to have the D3 form. But check with an experienced doctor or take your scores to an endocrinologist.

  22. CC

    I’m 37 years old had spinal surgery 2 years ago. Was feeling great then had my son now a year later my hip and lower calf hurt so bad I cannot lay down but when I stand it is bearable. I’m am now on norco 10mg and 800 ibuprofen from my pain management doctor. I was googling leg pain and found this site I remember about a year ago after my son was born I had blood work done and in very low in vitamin D so I found my pills and am beginning to take them. I’m hoping that this will work I’m tired of pain pills and pain. I was prescribed 950 calcium citrate 2x a day.

  23. Regina

    I’m in the same boat. Just went back to the Dr today for follow up blood work. I’m praying they are able to tell me something!

  24. SJR

    I would give it more than just 3 – 4 weeks. It may take 6 before she starts feeling better, since she was so low to begin with. It amazes me that she went from 55 to 16 in just 4 months. Mine went from 52 to 36 in 8 months after taking 12 weeks of the 50,000 IU, and not adding any more after the 12 week period besides what I had been taking before they discovered I was deficient. I have to take at least 3200 IU a day to keep my levels between 38 – 45. And I try to get sunshine everyday when it is available.
    My body does not absorb or retain it well for some reason. I have pernicious anemia so I have to take B12 sublingually every day too. I think maybe that is why I have a hard time keeping my Vit D levels up. Anyway if your wife does not start to feel better in the next couple of weeks, or gets worse, I would request they check her Vit B12 levels also. Good luck to her. Hope she feels better soon!

  25. Søren W. L.

    Greetings from Denmark. My wife is in dire straits. Type 1 diabetes, very slim, not very tall. Also, she has a fatty liver – non-alcoholic. She went through a liver biopsy in September 2012. Everything OK. She was not feeling well before the biopsy but the months after the biopsy has been a true night mare.
    In September her vitamin d-levels was measured to 55 but in January it was down to 16 due to stomach problems. For about three months my wife could eat anything else than mashed potatoes and rusks.
    Massive vitamin d treatment was started 3-4 weeks ago, but what is very discouraging is that things are getting worse – or at least not better. Does that make sense? Is the lesson to be learned that it has to get worse before it gets any better? Right now it is as if the pain “travels” downwards. Right now her feet hurt. Do you think we can expect things to get better after say 5 or 6 weeks?
    All best

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