Reduce Winter Joint Pain With Vitamin D

by kajohu

Do your joints hurt more during the winter than during the summer? You can relieve joint pain during the winter by taking extra Vitamin D.

Do your joints hurt more during the winter than during other times of the year? Are you looking for ways to relieve your winter joint pain?

Vitamin D is necessary for keeping our joints and bones healthy and pain-free, but many of us are deficient in Vitamin D, especially during the winter.

Vitamin D is synthesized by our bodies from exposure to sunlight, but during the winter most of us don't get enough exposure, resulting in a deficiency. Foods rich in Vitamin D, and supplements will help.

How I Relieve Joint Pain During the Winter

I take extra Vitamin D during the winter to reduce joint pain

I use a two-pronged approach for keeping my joints healthy and pain-free during the winter -- I take Vitamin D supplements and I exercise to keep my joints flexible and strong.

On this page we take a look at the importance of Vitamin D for relieving joint pain during the winter.

Also read Reduce Winter Joint Pain With Exercise to learn how exercising wisely helps to keep our joints stronger and more supple during the winter and throughout the rest of the year. 

I'm a fairly active person -- primarily I practice and teach Iyengar Yoga, but I also walk, and when there's enough snow, I cross-country ski.  

I know that this physical activity helps to keep my joints healthier, more supple, and more pain-free overall.

BUT when I was in my mid-40's I started to notice that some of my joints, especially my knees, would be more painful during the winter and spring than in summer and fall.

Why would my joints bother me more during the winter than during the summer?  

Healthy, Pain-free Winter Joints
Healthy, Pain-free Winter Joints
My own photo

After some research, and some interesting discussions with friends who've had the same problems, I realized that during the winter I was probably Vitamin D deficient, which can cause joint pain.  

I now take Vitamin D supplements during the winter and I continue with my regular physical activities, and my joints feel much happier all year long.

Vitamin D Deficiency and Winter Joint Pain

Many of us need more Vitamin D during the winter

Vitamin D is sometimes called the Sunshine Vitamin since our bodies synthesize it when we're exposed to sunlight.   

But during the winter, especially for those of us who live in the middle and higher latitudes, we're usually not exposed to enough sunlight to manufacture the necessary levels of Vitamin D that our bodies need.  Then we may start to notice the effects of its deficiency, including more joint pain, unless we eat more foods rich in Vitamin D or take supplements.

Vitamin D helps us to maintain strong and healthy joints, and it's also necessary for the proper absorption of calcium for strong bones. 

One study in 2004 on Vitamin D and Joint Health reported that patients who were deficient in Vitamin D had more joint pain and disability than those who had higher levels.  When levels were increased in those who had been deficient, they also experienced greater relief from joint pain.

Another study in 2011 found that 70% of new patients coming into rheumatology clinics were Vitamin D deficient (reviewed in Can Vitamin D Deficiency Cause Joint Pain?).

Vitamin D Sources

Sunlight, food, supplements

As I mentioned earlier, our bodies can synthesize Vitamin D from sunlight.  Those who live in the tropics can get enough sunlight if they spend 15 minutes in the sun twice a week without sunscreen.  At higher latitudes we need more time exposed to sunlight for our bodies to manufacture enough Vitamin D, and depending on the time of year, cloud cover, and pollution, we just may not be able to get the sun exposure that we need.  

Most of us, especially if we live in the middle and higher latitudes during the winter, will need to get extra Vitamin D from food sources such as cold-water fish (i.e. salmon, tuna), eggs, and fortified milk, and supplements.

It may be difficult to get enough Vitamin D through food, but luckily supplements are relatively inexpensive and easy to find.

The Power of Vitamin D

One of the best books about Vitamin D

There are a number of very good books with great information on how Vitamin D can improve our overall health, not just our joint health.   The Power of Vitamin D is one of the best of these books.

The author, Dr. Sarfraz Zaidi, is a leading expert on Vitamin D.  When he treats his patients for Vitamin D deficiency, their chronic pain disappears, fatigue goes away, arthritis gets better, blood pressure improves, along with a number of other health improvements.

Vitamin D Supplements

You can buy good quality Vitamin D supplements at grocery stores and drug stores.    Oil-based gelcaps absorb better than tablets.  Buy Vitamin D-3 rather than other forms.

I'm currently using Nature-Made Vitamin D-3, 5000 IU (shown below) during the winter, and it's working well for me.   The minimum suggested daily amount for women of my age is 400 IU, but more and more experts are saying that we will do better with much higher levels of Vitamin D. 

You may want to ask your health care provider to be tested for Vitamin D levels to determine how much you need to take.   If your levels are very low, you may be prescribed large doses of Vitamin D for awhile, such as 50,000 IU once a week for 6 - 8 weeks, then taper off to moderate levels (1000 IU -- 5000 IU per day) for maintenance.  

It's not a good idea to take the higher levels (50,000 IU) on your own, since toxicity at those levels can occur over time.   In general, though, people are at a far greater risk to be Vitamin D deficient than to suffer from Vitamin D toxicity.

Nature Made Vitamin D-3, 5000IU, 90 Softgels

A fun, easy way for the whole famile to satisfy their daily intake of Vitamin D. Helps support teeth, bone, and immune health.

NOW Foods Vitamin D-3, 2000 I.U., 240 Softgels

NOW® Vitamin D softgels supply this key vitamin in a highly-absorbable liquid softgel form. Vitamin D is normally obtained from the diet or produced by the skin from the ...

Vitamin D-3 1,000 IU - 360 Softgels

NOW Vitamin D-1000 softgels supply recommended levels of this key vitamin in a highly-absorbable liquid softgel form. Vitamin D is normally obtained from the diet or produced ...


More Information on Vitamin D and Joint Health

Ease Winter Joint Pain
Walking outside during the winter can ease joint pain, exposes us to the sun for more Vitamin D production, keeps our bones strong, and helps us stay happier overall.

Vitamin D Sources
Sun exposure, food sources, supplements

Vitamin D Overview on WebMD
Uses, side effects, dosing information

Can Vitamin D Deficiency Cause Joint Pain?
Information on Vitamin D and joint pain

What Are the Benefits of Vitamin D?
What are the sources of Vitamin D, and what are the benefits.

Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin
Our bodies synthesize Vitamin D from exposure to sunlight on our skin.

Updated: 01/19/2014, kajohu
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Talk to Me! Are Your Joints More Painful During the Winter?

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frankbeswick on 01/25/2014

Thanks. I have already bought some codliver oil. I am trying to stave off the day when I need a hip replacement. I know that it will come, but I will do as much to preserve my joints as I can before the day.

kajohu on 01/25/2014

I hope it works for you, frankbeswick! I take 5000 IU of Vitamin D daily during the winter months, and that seems to work very well for me. I have never had codliver oil, but that is a great source of Vit. D of course!

frankbeswick on 01/25/2014

This is a very useful article. I am sixty three and finding my hip joints are painful in winter. I reckon that I will try vitamin D. When I was a child my mother used to give us a daily dose of codliver oil, which is a great source of this vitamin. I will get some.

kajohu on 01/24/2014

Thanks, ologsinquito -- I wouldn't be surprised if Vitamin D deficiency may make breast cancer more likely.

ologsinquito on 01/24/2014

Great article. Vitain D is so important. Some alternative practitioners even think breast cancer is a symptom of a Vitamin D deficiency.

athena2011 on 02/28/2012

I agree with Petunia about being pleased that a doctor admitted that Vitamin D can have benefits for us. I think The Dr. Oz show is perhaps opening up the minds of doctors that natural remedies can be as good, or better even, than prescription drugs in helping our bodies to heal.

Thankfully I live in Florida so we do not really have Winters, however I have noticed that as I get older I do get pains in my knees at times. Never thought it could be related to a Vitamin D deficiency. Even though I live in Florida there are days when I am not exposed at all to sunshine. Good information you have shared here.

kajohu on 02/19/2012

You're welcome, Art-Aspirations! Definitely, joint pain is no fun! It's great that there are so many things we can do to help reduce it!

Art-Aspirations on 02/19/2012

Thanks for putting all this information together. Joint pain is no fun!

kajohu on 02/13/2012

katiem2 -- I'm glad the information is useful for you. It was eye-opening for me since I had also been filling stiffer and achier in the winter.
ohcaroline -- you're lucky you don't have joint pains :-) You're in Florida, right? I think that would help a lot, to be around all that lovely sunshine!
Dustytoes -- Yep, my problem is remembering to take it too -- but I've gotten better at it this winter!

dustytoes on 02/13/2012

I do take vitamin D in winter but did not know that a lack of it could have a joint pain side-effect. My problem is remembering to take it!

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