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What vitamin deficiency causes body aches?

Body aches and pains can have many different causes, from injuries and inflammation to infections and chronic conditions. However, vitamin deficiencies are a common cause of generalized body aches and pains that don’t seem to be connected to another medical condition.

Several vitamins play crucial roles in important body functions like muscle contraction, nerve transmission, energy production, and inflammation regulation. Not getting enough of these vitamins can disrupt these processes, leading to aches, pains, fatigue, muscle cramps, and weakness.

Vitamins that can cause body aches when deficient

The main vitamins that are often linked to body aches when deficient include:

  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E

Deficiencies in these vitamins can cause general symptoms like fatigue, muscle weakness, and impaired nerve function that may contribute to body aches.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is crucial for regulating calcium absorption and bone health. Low levels are very common, especially in people with limited sun exposure. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to:

  • Muscle aches and weakness
  • Bone pain
  • Joint pain
  • Difficulty moving

Studies show that supplementing with vitamin D can improve musculoskeletal symptoms in people with deficiency. Older adults are especially prone to body aches from low vitamin D levels.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 helps form red blood cells and maintain healthy nerve function. Deficiency is common in people with certain medical conditions or who take heartburn drugs long-term.

Low vitamin B12 can contribute to body aches in a few ways:

  • Pinprick sensations or numbness from nerve damage
  • Muscle weakness, spasms, cramps, and soreness
  • Fatigue from anemia

Getting sufficient vitamin B12 reduces neuropathic pain and paresthesia (tingling) related to deficiency. Older adults are also at higher risk of body pains from low vitamin B12.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that helps make collagen and supports immune function. Not getting enough can make bones and joints more prone to pain by contributing to:

  • Easy bruising
  • Gum inflammation
  • Blood vessel fragility
  • Joint loosening

Higher vitamin C intake is linked to reduced risk of common inflammatory conditions like arthritis and gout that can cause achy joints.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that protects cells from damage. It also has anti-inflammatory effects in the body. Deficiency is rare but can cause:

  • Nerve problems like numbness, burning, and loss of sensation
  • Muscle weakness and coordination issues
  • Bone and joint pain

Supplementing with vitamin E may improve neuropathic pain, muscle strength, and mobility in people with deficiency. Vitamin E is especially important for preventing bone and joint issues as you age.

Diagnosing vitamin deficiencies

If you have persistent, generalized body aches, weakness, and fatigue, ask your doctor to check your vitamin levels. A blood test can measure levels of:

  • 25-hydroxy vitamin D
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E

Your doctor may also order other tests to rule out medical conditions that cause similar symptoms. Addressing any vitamin shortfalls with food sources or supplements can help improve body aches related to deficiency.

Food sources of these vitamins

The best way to prevent vitamin deficiency is to get enough from food. Here are some of the top food sources for vitamins that can help prevent body aches:

Vitamin D

  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Egg yolks
  • Fortified dairy products
  • Fortified cereals

Vitamin B12

  • Beef liver
  • Clams
  • Trout
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Fortified cereals
  • Dairy products

Vitamin C

  • Orange juice
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Strawberries
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes

Vitamin E

  • Wheat germ oil
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Almonds
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli

Eating a balanced diet with a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats, lean proteins, and dairy products can help you avoid vitamin shortfalls that may lead to body aches.


If adjusting your diet doesn’t relieve deficiency-related body aches, your doctor may recommend supplements. Some options include:

  • Vitamin D: Most adults need at least 600-800 IU daily. Older adults often need a higher dose of around 1,000-2,000 IU per day.
  • Vitamin B12: The recommended daily amount is 2.4 mcg. Older adults may require doses between 25-100 mcg due to reduced absorption.
  • Vitamin C: The recommended daily allowance is 75-90 mg. Doses up to 500 mg twice daily are safe for most adults.
  • Vitamin E: Recommended intake is 15 mg. Doses for deficiency treatment are typically 800-1,200 IU per day.

Work with your doctor to find the right vitamin supplements and dosages to get your levels back to normal. Recheck your levels after 3-4 months to see if the body aches have improved.

When to see a doctor

Meet with your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms along with persistent body aches:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Frequent infections
  • Open sores in the mouth
  • Vision changes
  • Memory problems
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Frequent bruising or bleeding

Unexplained, generalized body pain that doesn’t seem connected to injury or illness may be a sign of a vitamin deficiency. But it could also indicate other medical problems that need treatment.

See your doctor right away if you experience any severe symptoms along with body aches, like:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • High fever
  • Sudden, severe pain

Some medical emergencies like heart attack, pulmonary embolism, sepsis, or stroke can initially cause body aches or pain before progressing to more severe symptoms. Getting immediate treatment is crucial.

When body aches may indicate vitamin deficiency

Here are some signs that widespread body aches may be related to a vitamin deficiency:

  • No recent injury, infection, or illness
  • Aches started gradually and have persisted
  • Pain and stiffness all over the body
  • Symptoms worse in the morning
  • Muscle weakness and fatigue
  • Tingling/numbness in hands and feet
  • Bone pain
  • Frequent headaches
  • Poor wound healing
  • Bruising easily

While body aches are rarely the only symptom of a vitamin deficiency, they may be one of the more noticeable ones. If your symptoms match up, get checked for potential vitamin shortfalls.

Groups at risk for vitamin deficiencies

Some people are more prone to vitamin deficiencies that can cause body aches. High-risk groups include:

  • Older adults
  • People with digestive conditions like celiac or IBS
  • Individuals who have had bariatric surgery
  • Those with alcohol dependence
  • People who take medications that reduce nutrient absorption like heartburn drugs
  • Individuals with chronic kidney or liver disease
  • Vegans and vegetarians (for B12 and D deficiencies)
  • Those with darker skin tones (for vitamin D deficiency)

If you fall into one of these high-risk groups and have unexplained body aches, get your vitamin levels tested. Treating any deficiencies found may help improve your symptoms.

When to consider other causes

While vitamin deficiency is a possible cause of body aches, many other conditions can cause similar widespread pain and discomfort. See your doctor to rule out other possible medical causes, like:

  • Arthritis
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Injuries like fractures, sprains, and strains
  • Nerve damage or compression
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Sleep disorders

If your doctor has ruled out vitamin deficiencies and other medical problems, factors like stress and anxiety, poor sleep, lack of exercise, and bad posture may also contribute to muscle aches, fatigue, and general discomfort.

Key points about vitamin deficiencies and body aches

  • Vitamin D, B12, C, and E deficiencies often cause body aches, fatigue, weakness, and nerve problems.
  • Older adults, those with digestive issues, and people who take certain medications have a higher risk of deficiency.
  • Eating a nutrient-rich diet can help prevent low vitamin levels in most people.
  • Doctors can check your vitamin levels with a simple blood test.
  • Taking supplements may help correct deficiencies causing body aches.
  • See a doctor to rule out other medical problems that can cause similar widespread pain.

The bottom line

Body aches can stem from many conditions, but vitamin deficiencies are a simple potential cause to check for. Vitamins D, B12, C, and E all help maintain muscle, bone, nerve, and immune function. Falling short on these nutrients can lead to muscle weakness, bone pain, fatigue, and discomfort.

Checking for vitamin deficiencies is especially important if you have no recent illness or injury to explain body aches but have other symptoms like tingling, frequent infections, or being at high risk for deficiency. With treatment of shortfalls found, you may be able to find relief from body aches related to nutritional deficiencies.