Sun Therapy for Fibro

by Kristin Thorson, Fibromyalgia Network Editor
Posted: May 26, 2011

The sun can soothe sore muscles and induce relaxation, but that’s not all.1 A new study shows UV rays may also reduce fibromyalgia pain by triggering your skin cells to make more vitamin D.2

Regular sun exposure causes your skin to produce vitamin D, which does more than maintain healthy bones and build strong muscles. This essential vitamin is known for its immune system effects on relieving pain and inflammation. Making sure you get adequate sun exposure should lead to greater vitamin D levels and less fibromyalgia pain … at least in theory.

A team in Israel put this theory to the test. Their study included 60 chronic pain patients, primarily those with fibromyalgia, but also patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. All subjects sun-bathed briefly each day for three weeks under medical supervision. Pain levels, disease severity, and serum vitamin D were measured before and after the three-week period.

Vitamin D increased by 25 percent, regardless of whether the patient had fibromyalgia or arthritis. Greater changes in vitamin levels correlated with the degree of improvements in pain and disease severity. The research team comments that their findings “support the hypothesis that increased serum vitamin D may reduce musculoskeletal pain.”

Minimize Risks

Exposure to sun places people at risk for skin cancer.3 Dermatologists Steven Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., and Sarah Taylor, M.D., at Wake Forest University, offer the following advice for FM patients who find the sun helpful:

  • Short, controlled increments (less than 15 minutes), 2-3 times a week, are best.
  • Cover your neck with a cloth and wear a hat that shades your face. These are the most common areas for skin cancer.
  • Wear a cover-up if the warmth of the sun reduces your pain, and wear sun screen.

1. Taylor SL, et al. J Alt Complement Med 15:15-23, 2009.
2. Harari M, et al. Isr Med Assoc J 13:12-15, 2011.
3. Feldman SR, et al. Pediatric Derm 22(6):501-12, 2005.

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  3. Mindy says:

    wonderful article….especially since i am vitamin D deficient..last time they took my level it was 26…on supplements now of 50,000 units once a week. problem is a few months ago had surgery for basal cell carcinoma just in the crease of my i don’t think being in the sun is what the doctor would want. i’m still being followed and healing i know i can’t do it for awhile at least. It’s hard to cover up your face except with sunblock.

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