Vitamin D Goes Far Beyond Bone Health

Scientists have known for decades that Vitamin D plays a vital role in Skeleton "Flexing" Humerus Boneproducing healthy bones. Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium, which is necessary for bone development, bone remodeling and preventing bone loss, which can lead to osteoporosis later on in life.  For centuries, we primarily obtained vitamin D from exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, which was easily achieved when humans worked predominately outside.  However, we now spend most of our working days indoors, only longing to be outside enjoying the sun.

Recent research has demonstrated just how widespread low vitamin D levels are throughout our society. Studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency in some North American groups is as high as 80%. The elderly and pregnant women seem to be especially susceptible, and it is also a bigger problem for people with dark skin, which is not as efficient in producing vitamin D from sun exposure.

Woman being warmed by sunshine, looking happyWhere you live also impacts your vitamin D levels. If you live in the Northern United States or Canada (!!), you’re more likely to be vitamin D deficient as the longer, darker winters in these areas restrict sunlight hours.  Another complication is that despite the importance of the sun to vitamin D synthesis, it is prudent to limit our skin exposure to the sun and UV radiation (from tanning beds).   UV radiation is a carcinogen responsible for most cases of skin cancer.

Another factor, which complicates getting sufficient levels of vitamin D is that it is difficult to obtain through our diet.  Natural sources of vitamin D are few and most of us cannot get our required levels of vitamin D solely from foods that we eat.  Some of the foods that are high is vitamin D include; cod liver oil, salmon, mackerel and fortified milk and orange juice.


Surprising Research:

In the last 5 years there has been a steady stream of news on vitamin D and silhouette of person standing in front of sunriseits wide-ranging effects on preventing diseases and improving chronic health problems. According to a review of vitamin D published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, people who consumed vitamin D supplements had an overall lower risk of death from any cause. Other research has produced compelling evidence of vitamin D’s impact on cancer.  At the University of California, researchers discovered that consuming 1000IU of vitamin D daily slashed the risk of colon, prostate, breast and ovarian cancers up to 50%. Other studies have revealed reductions in all cancer occurrences in men & women taking vitamin D and amazing 45% reduction in deaths caused by digestive cancers.

This versatile vitamin may also provide additional support for weight loss. Some research demonstrated that participants involved in a calorie-restricting diet, saw a greater reduction in abdominal fat as well as losing more weight, when thet increased their levels of vitamin D.

Muscle Pain & Vitamin D

A deficiency in vitamin D may also play a role in muscle pain. Patients who were suffering from non-specific muscular pain were found to have unusually low levels of vitamin D, according to a study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. A study in Spine showed that 83% of low back pain sufferers also had insufficient levels of vitamin D. When their vitamin D intake was boosted, nearly all of the patients showed improvement in pain symptoms. This deficiency in vitamin D has also been demonstrated in children, an age group that had previously been considered at low risk.

Other investigations show vitamin D has a positive impact on rheumatoid arthrtitis, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes.




Understanding Muscle Dysfunction

When we decide we want to become stronger, it seems that we have a general understanding of what it’s going to take to get there.  If for example we choose to employ the assistance of a personal trainer and we go in for a session and after some basic testing, it is determined that we can bench press 100 lbs.  Our goal, however, is to press 150 lbs… that’s why we’re doing the personal training.

Is anyone in that situation is going to be disappointed or surprised that after one session of personal training, that 150 lb goal has not been reached…N0! of course not.  It is understood that making changes in a muscles capacity to produce force takes time.  It’s going to take a while.  It’s going to take consistent effort with adequate rest, to increase the size and strength of the muscles, gradually increasing from the 100 lbs, by increments up to 150 lbs over weeks or months.

Something that is less understood is there are other factors that are going to contribute to that muscles ability to strengthen and contract and grow which are not able to be addressed by repetitive, consistent effort alone.  The muscles blood supply, innervation, presence of adhesions or trigger points, or an overly tight antagonist muscles all affect that muscles performance.

Muscles can become injured or dysfunctional in a few key ways:

1) Overt trauma, such as muscle strain or tear.  This is usually a pretty obvious situation involving a large force, an awkward position, an unwelcome “popping” sound might make an appearance, pain, inflammation, bruising, (all that fun stuff) and a significant recovery time.

2) Repetitive Strain; where a lower force is applied to the same tissue over and over and over again.  This also eventually results in pain, inflammation and decreased functional capacity.  Common examples of this type of injury are “Tennis elbow” and Achilles’ Tendonitis.

3) Constant Pressure or Tension.  This is usually associated with a postural strain, or a prolonged isometric contraction.  The tension/pressure/contraction limits blood flow and thus oxygen delivery.  Our muscles NEED oxygen and when they don’t get it, fibrotic tissue gets deposited, shortening the muscles, decreasing their ability to contract and lowering their threshold for pain.

Our bodies repair the damage, after going through some inflammation, with fibrotic tissue, to start.  This carries with it some difficulties, including: those repair muscles developing adhesions with things they shouldn’t, shortened muscles altering posture and muscle activation patterns leading to bad biomechanical habits.  This is muscle dysfunction.

We can carry these muscle dysfunctions with us for years and not have them be a problem.  We are very adept at making reasonable compensations for muscle dysfunctions.  Only after a faulty motor pattern, or  poor biomechanics leads to another repetitive strain injury does it become a problem, or when we decide to try and take our training to the “next level” and things don’t respond the way we expect.

This is where seeking appropriate treatment for those dysfunctional muscles comes in.  Much like training for muscle hypertrophy, all the changes we’re hoping for are not going to happen in one session!

A.R.T.® or Active Release Techniques® is on treatment that I’ve found to work very well at addressing this dysfunction, but there are lots of effective techniques out there.

With A.R.T., often there will be some improvement after one treatment.  Typically 3 to 5 sessions are required to effectively address an issue.  So when you go in for a treatment and you can lift your arm to shoulder height, but your goal is to lift it all the way over your head…don’t be disappointed when you can only lift it 3/4 of the way there after 1 session.  Stick with your treatments and don’t set your expectations for yourself too low!  Just because you’ve “ALWAYS” had a bad shoulder since that one accident x number of years ago, for example, doesn’t mean you have to give up on ever throwing a football again!…get it checked out and assessed properly.