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Open Access Research article

Vitamin D levels appear to be normal in Danish patients attending secondary care for low back pain and a weak positive correlation between serum level Vitamin D and Modic changes was demonstrated: a cross-sectional cohort study of consecutive patients with non-specific low back pain

Jannick Vaaben Johansen1*, Claus Manniche1 and Per Kjaer12

Author Affiliations

1 Research Unit, Spine Centre of Southern Denmark, Part of Clinical Locomotion Network, Hospital Lillebaelt, Institute of Regional Health Services, University of Southern Denmark, Oestre Hougvej 55, Middelfart, DK-5500, Denmark

2 Institute of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, Part of Clinical Locomotion Network, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2013, 14:78  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-14-78

Published: 4 March 2013



Hypovitaminosis D has previously been reported in both the general population, in people with chronic musculoskeletal pain, and in people with low back pain (LBP). Myopathy-related symptoms such as diffuse bone and muscle pain, weakness and paresthesia in the legs, have also been observed in people with non-specific LBP and associations with low levels of Vitamin D have been suggested. The objectives of this study were to investigate (1) Vitamin D levels in patients seeking care for LBP in a Danish out-patient secondary care setting, and (2) their possible relationship with myopathy-related symptoms, Body Mass Index (BMI), and Modic changes.


A total of 152 consecutive patients with non-specific LBP participated in a cross-sectional study. Participants were recruited at The Spine Centre of Southern Denmark during springtime 2011. Individual serum levels of 25-Hydroxyvitamin-D were determined using Liquid Chromatography Tandem Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Information about symptoms, height, and weight were collected from electronic questionnaires completed by the participants. All patients had an MRI from which Modic changes were identified. Correlations between Vitamin D level and pain, paresthesia, weakness in the legs, BMI or Modic changes were described using correlation coefficients and odds ratios obtained from logistic regression.


Two-thirds of the included patients with LBP had normal Vitamin D levels of >50 nmol/L. No correlations were seen between Vitamin D deficiency and gender, age, back pain intensity, leg pain intensity, and duration of pain. Statistically significant, but low, correlation coefficients were found between Vitamin D levels and BMI as well as Modic changes. Low Vitamin D levels and Modic changes were statistically significantly associated with an odds ratio of 0.30 (95% CI 0.12; 0.75) while weakness, paresthesia and widespread pain were not.


In patients seeking care for low back pain in a Danish outpatient clinic, Vitamin D deficiency was not common. Whether patients who are overweight or who have Modic changes might represent subgroups of people for whom their LBP may be associated with Vitamin D levels, needs further investigation.

Low back pain; Vitamin D; Modic changes