What has Vitamin B12 got to do with low back pain?
How could a vitamin help my chronic pain issue?
Well, let us explore what Vitamin B12 is, what it affects and what a deficiency looks like. And, importantly, what research is out there on the connection between this vitamin and chronic low back pain.
Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin that you need to consume via diet or dietary supplements. The main jobs this building block has in your body is blood formation, protecting neurons, cell division and supporting folic acid metabolism. Just protecting your neurons is a considerable task – in fact sometimes this vitamin is called the “neuro vitamin” as it is so important in your nervous system and brain.
What does it look like if I have a deficiency?
Some of the symptoms that are commonly associated with a deficiency are:
Persistent pain, sensation of pins and needles, numbness
Mouth ulcers, glossitis, sore tongue or burning mouth
Mood and behaviour – for example low mood and poor concentration
As you can see some of the symptoms here are very common to many issues. And this is why a deficiency can be overlooked so easily. We can put symptoms down to ageing, lifestyle … you are in a bad mood cause you don’t like your boss. So its important to look globally. Put together all of your symptoms and also check whether you are in an at risk group.
Certain demographics are at a higher risk of being deficient. The group that is most often highlighted are particularly vegans and vegetarians. However, these groups tend to be acutely aware of this issue and mindful in their daily lives to address this and so it can be less of an issue. Groups that may not be clued into it are those who are simply eating a very poor diet; high sugar, high processed convenience foods etc. In fact, this group can be deficient in many of our essential vitamins and minerals. Check out most facts and figures from the W.H.O. on malnutrition (as opposed to undernutrition – a very different kettle of fish).
Other causes of deficiency are certain drugs that can inhibit or stop ideal absorption of the vitamin. Drugs like protein pump inhibitors for gastric acid or metaformin for diabetes. Certain diseases such as IBS, SIBO, IBD, pancreatitis and auto-immune disorders such as pernicious anemia affect your absorption from your dietary intake and you may find yourself experiencing further symptoms abreast of your chronic concern.
What has all this got to do with my chronic back pain?
A study from 2011 took subjects with chronic non specific low back pain (meaning there was no specific reason for their back pain) and gave them three injections of Vitamin B12 per week over a two week period. They also had a placebo group receiving dummy injections for comparison. They had quizzed them pre the injections on their pain and then again post injections. In the groups receiving the real Vitamin B12 injections they found a 32% decrease in perceived pain. Interestingly, the researchers did not test any of the group for deficiency prior to beginning the trial. So if they had tested the group and excluded any subjects with in range blood results, would they have gotten the same results in the trial? Would it have been a less or more favourable outcome for beneficial aspects of Vitamin B12? Either way, the results from this study are clear and very positive; a reduction in pain from a simple, accessible intervention. However as always, more research is needed to build on this study.
It is unclear why the researchers chose not to test but perhaps they did not do so as the testing for Vitamin B12 is not completely reliable. There is a large grey zone and you can fall between two stools. Your bloods may come back as fine but your cellular levels may not be adequate. You can see this reflected in the British N.I.C.E. guidelines. They state that neurological changes can occur even when your blood tests have come back within range. This is why it is important to put the whole jigsaw together. Look at all your symptoms, your lifestyle, your chronic concerns etc AND get clinical testing completed too. Too often now the focus is solely on the metrics and not on the person themselves and the overall picture.
So how can I get Vitamin B12 into my diet?
Good vitamin B12 sources are predominantly animal foods. Beef liver is top of the list. As are many of the organ meats. I would suggest sourcing high quality organic organ meats to assure the meat (and animal) you are consuming were themselves well nourished and had minimal chemicals being processed by their liver. If you are eating these for the first time, or perhaps coming back to them after a long time – learn how to cook them well and in a tasty receipe. Many of us have poor memories of badly cooked kidneys or liver from our childhood!
Vegans, vegetarians and some of the at risk demographics typically supplement with Vitamin B12. Something to consider when supplementing is that B12 does not work alone. It depends on other B vitamins to complete its cycle. So consider a B complex over supplementing with B12 alone. And to go a step further I suggest you look at the form of B12 you are consuming. The devil is in the detail and you want to be getting the active form of B12. Two suggestions I have are a liposomal option and a food grown capsule option. I have nothing to do with either companies. I find people often struggle on where to start with supplements – hence some suggestions. Please dig deeper to see what suits your and your concerns.
If you are getting B12 injections I suggest discussing any additional supplementation with your GP. Also, if you have a chronic condition that you believe may be impacting your B12 levels, again, discuss this with your GP. While Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin and your body flushes out what you do not need, it is a good idea to discuss your unique situation with your health professional who knows your circumstance best. And then couple that with who knows best of all – YOU!
Finally, the information provided here is not intended to replace individual medical advice and is a short introduction to Vitamin B12. A complex vitamin with a lot of important roles in the body. This is a simple starting point to discuss the importance of your building blocks – vitamins and minerals – and how adequate supply can positively impact your health and well-being.
If you have any further questions regarding this topic or wish to arrange an appointment please do not hesitate to contact the clinic or contact me directly on 087 1815007.
Natural Back Health is a private professional service providing gentle, low force and safe therapy to bring about relief and recovery. I have a whole health and body philosophy to my care, hence I do not just discuss the best stretch for your back pain. My plan of care generally includes tailored advice on stress management, nutrition, exercise, sleep and in-house gentle manual therapy.
To learn more about my style of care pop over here.