Vitamin B-Complex and Pain Management

Vitamins in the B-complex family are not only essential for growth and development of many bodily functions, they may provide effective pain relief. When taken with vitamin B, smaller doses of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, are required for the management of pain. Vitamin B has proven to shorten the duration of painful symptoms associated with conditions, including nerve damage, back pain and menstrual cramps.

Meat, fish, vegetables and dairy products are good sources of vitamin B. (Image: AlexRaths/iStock/Getty Images)

Identification of B Vitamins

Vitamin B-complex includes eight distinct vitamins: B-1 -- thiamin; B-2 -- riboflavin; B-3 -- niacin; B-5 -- pantathoenic acid; B-6 -- pyridoxine; B-7 -- biotin; B-9 -- folic acid; B-12 -- cyanocobalamin. Water-soluble B-complex vitamins assist in metabolism, promote skin and muscle tone, help the immune and nervous system and are essential for cell growth and division.

Back Pain

Chronic pain can occur from damaged or injured nerve fibers, which send incorrect signals to pain centers in the body. B vitamins may clinically treat various chronically long-term painful conditions by inhibiting a key signaling pathway inside nerve cells. Studies at Parker College Research Institute in Dallas, Texas, reported on in the May 2003 issue of "Psychology Today," showed that a combination of B vitamins brought relief to chronic back pain in 30 to 60 minutes and lasted 6 to 12 hours. Researcher Xuejun Song, MD, PhD, estimates that doses of 200 to 500 milligrams are necessary to achieve the pain-reducing benefits.

Nerve Damage

Neuropathy, or nerve damage, can cause abnormal nerve sensations in the arms and legs. Vitamin B-complex may be effective in the recovery from neuropathy. Research at the University of the Philippines assessed the effects of vitamin B for treating nerve damage, using various studies, reference data and trials comparing vitamin B with placebo and other treatments. Although a small benefit resulted from a derivative of vitamin B-1, thiamine, higher doses of vitamin B-complex showed evidence of significant short-term reduction in pain and improvement in numbness and pain, with only a few minor adverse effects reported, as published in 2008 in the "Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews."

Menstrual Cramps

The National Women's Hospital in New Zealand examined alternatives to conventional medicine and the use of nutrition intakes to relieve painful menstrual cramps. Studies showed that 100 milligrams of vitamin B-1 taken daily was an effective treatment for pain associated with menstruation, as published in the "Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews" in 2001. The November-December 2006 issue of "Journal of Midwifery and Women's Health" reports that vitamin B-6 is also effective at treating premenstrual syndrome.

Toxicity and Deficiencies

High intake of vitamin B-6, usually from supplements, can cause nerve damage to the arms and legs. The daily value for vitamin B-6 is 2 milligrams per day. The Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health, reports sensory neuropathy at doses lower than 500 milligrams per day. Excess doses of B vitamins can cause diarrhea, liver problems and irregular heartbeat. Long-term excessive intake may even lead to heart attack, according to the Human Performance Resource Center's website. Vitamin B deficiencies can also have an effect on pain from nerve damage. Merck Manuals reports that vitamin B-12 deficiency can cause neuropathy, especially in older people, those with dementia or vegetarians.

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