B12 and Joint Pain
Vitamin B12 may reduce joint pain and it may also cause it. Find out why this is so.
by Brad Chase
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin belonging to the B complex family. It is also called Cobalamin and occurs in 4 related compounds: cyanocobalamin, hydroxocobalamin, methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin.
Vitamin B12 is essential for a number of biochemical processes in the body. It is required for cellular metabolism and energy production; DNA synthesis and regulation; and fatty acid production.
Plants and animals do not produce Cobalamin but they can make methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin from available Cobalamin. Vitamin B12 is actually produced by a number of bacteria which live symbiotically in animals and plants.
Cyanocobalamin, on the other hand, is the most common commercially sold form of vitamin B12. It is cheaper than the other forms of vitamin B12 and it is the only form of the vitamin that does not occur naturally.
Vitamin B12 is mostly used to treat a deficiency in the vitamin.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by pernicious anemia and any other factor that lowers the absorption of the vitamin. Its main symptoms are depression, fatigue, psychosis, mania and failing memory. These symptoms are caused by the irreversible damage on the brain and nervous system.
Hydroxocobalamin is also used to treat cyanide poisoning. When used in this way, hydroxocobalamin simply takes on the cyanide ions to become cyanocobalamin which is another form of vitamin B12.
Dietary sources of vitamin B12 include mostly animal sources. This is because while most animals have vitamin B12-producing bacteria in their guts, these bacteria are usually found around the roots of plants. Therefore, when such plants are thoroughly washed before eating/cooking, most of the water-soluble vitamin is lost.
Therefore, vegetarians must take vitamin B12 supplements to avoid a deficiency in the vitamin.
Vitamin B12 is also available in fortified foods such as cereals, energy bars, energy drinks, soy products and nutritional yeast.
Vitamin B12 is also available as supplements in different forms including pills, nasal sprays, injections, liquid and transdermal patch.
Although cyanocobalamin is the most popular vitamin B12 supplement, the other 3 are also available especially in other dosage forms such as injection (examples are sublingual methylcobalamin and injectable hydroxocobalamin).
When ingested, cyanocobalamin is converted to all 3 forms of the vitamins in the liver.
The conversion starts with hydroxocobalamin then unto methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin which are stored in the liver.
All forms of vitamin B12 are safe even cyanocobalamin. The risk of toxicity with the vitamin is very low because it is water-soluble and so easily removed from the body.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is an important risk factor in osteoporosis. When the level of the vitamin falls, the deficiency triggers the demineralization of the bone.
The Framingham Osteoporosis Study is one of the many studies that have established the link between vitamin B12 and bone density. In that study, the vitamin B12 levels in 2500 study participants were measured along with bone mineral density.
This study which was published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, found out that people with low levels of vitamin B12 also had low bone mineral densities.
Besides improving bone mineralization, vitamin B12 also prevents the inflammation of the joint. It does this by inhibiting the immune cells responsible for inflammatory reactions.
Therefore, vitamin B12 supplements are effective for relieve both acute and chronic joint pain.
Different studies and evidence has shown that joint pain is a common side effect of vitamin B12 injections. It is also one of the indications for which vitamin B12 injections are recommended.
So what is vitamin B12 injection?
Vitamin B12 injection is usually given to vegetarians who do not eat meat and so may quickly develop vitamin B12 deficiency. The most common symptom of this deficiency is megaloblastic anemia which refers to a number of anemia including pernicious anemia.
There are other uses of vitamin B12 injection. Some of these are backed by years of research while others are indicated by preliminary studies. Vitamin B12 injection is used in weight loss treatment as well as in the treatment of malaise and fatigue syndromes.
Its use in this way is because the vitamin speeds up metabolism and the injection delivers high levels of the vitamin quickly.
Vitamin B12 injection is also used in the treatment of joint pain including pain due to carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis and bursitis.
Carpal tunnel is caused by the repetitive and overuse of the same set of fingers and hands especially where such use places constant pressure on the median nerve.
In one study involving 135 people with carpal tunnel, the 67 people who received 1500 micrograms of vitamin 12 per day over the course of 2 years experienced far less joint pain than the 68 people who did not use the vitamin.
Arthritis can also cause joint pain. In osteoarthritis, the degeneration of the cartilage causes the heads of bones to rub together and pressure on nerves at the joint. In rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune attack on the cartilage can also cause joint pain.
Vitamin B12, whether as injection or oral forms, can provide relief for joint pain caused by arthritis.
It is also the treatment of choice for reducing joint pain caused by bursitis.
Bursitis refers to the inflammation of the sacs or bursae of the synovial fluid. Since the bursae occupy the meeting point of bones, tendons and muscles in joints, there is far more friction against movement when they swell up. This can cause sharp pain at the joints.
Bursitis affects the joints of the knees, hips, heels, elbows and shoulders.
It can be treated with ice packs, compression bandages, massage, pain medications, anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics. However, vitamin B12 injection is by far the safest means of reducing the swelling and joint pain caused by bursitis.
Vitamin B12 relieves joint pain and inflammation caused by bursitis by regulating the action of the immune cells responsible for the inflammation and pain.
However, for all the gains of vitamin B12 in the treatment of joint pain from multiple causes, it can also cause joint pain. This is usually caused by vitamin B12 injection.
Other mild side effects of vitamin B12 include local pain at the point of injection; hypersensitivity reactions including allergic reactions and skin reactions such as acne; abdominal pain and other gastrointestinal upsets; and headache.
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