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Fatigue and Chronic Back Pain

A common symptom associated with chronic back pain is fatigue. In an effort to combat this fatigue and boost energy levels, vitamin B12 is often prescribed.

But does vitamin B12 supplementation actually boost energy levels?

Scott Gavura, writing for ScienceBasedMedicine.com, provides the scientific evidence for vitamin B12.

Is Vitamin B12 Really An Energy Booster?

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Having spent many hours working in close proximity to a wall of vitamins, I’ve answered a lot of vitamin questions, and given a lot of recommendations. Before I can make a recommendation, I need to ask some questions of my own. My first is almost always, “Why do you want to take a vitamin?” The most common response I’m given is “insurance” – which usually means supplementation in the absence of any symptom or medical need. Running a close second is “I need more energy.” With some digging, the situation usually boils down to a perceived lack of energy compared to some prior period: last week, last year, or a decade ago. While I may identify possible medical issues as a result of these interviews (these are referred to a physician), I’m often faced with a patient with mild and non-specific descriptions of fatigue. And more often than not, they’ve already decided that they’re going to buy a multivitamin supplement. When it comes to boosting the energy levels, they’re often interested in a specific one: Vitamin B12 (cobalamin). So why does vitamin B12, among all the vitamins, have a halo of benefit for fatigue and energy levels? The answer is part science and a whole lot of marketing.

As has been described repeatedly SBM, multivitamins have an impressive aura of benefit and safety that, by and large, hasn’t been substantiated. Beyond the multivitamins, there are dozens of single-ingredient vitamins that contain doses that greatly exceed anything you can pack into a multivitamin, and usually significantly exceed the Reference Daily Intake. While these products may be appropriate for those that actually need a specific supplement (e.g., high dose folic acid, or calcium) they also increase the potential for unanticipated effects, giving a much higher dose than the typical diet can provide.

How the single-agent vitamins are consumed when self-selected by consumers seems to be influenced more by perceptions of efficacy, rather than the underlying scientific evidence. Vitamin C is associated with preventing colds and influenza (though it doesn’t work) and may be shelved alongside the other cold remedies. The B Vitamins are considered to be the “stress” vitamins, based on the perceptions that these vitamins are more rapidly depleted in people who are more “stressed”. Multivitamins like Stresstabs trade on this image. Among the B vitamins, B12 is often held out as as an almost miraculous energy booster. It’s often marketed as a sublingual product – you place it under your tongue, presumably for rapid, extensive absorption.

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it should be noted that vitamin B12 is prescribed not only for symptoms of fatigue, but also for pain management, depression, and anxiety.

Do you have additional questions about fatigue and back pain or dietary supplements to reduce back pain? We have put together a Patient Guide that discusses nutrition and dietary supplements in more detail. If you would like access to this informative and easy to understand Patient Guide, just click this link and we’ll make sure you get your copy today. Patients’ Guide To Dietary Supplements

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