Vitamin C Prevents Fracture Complication

Healthnotes Newswire (August 16, 2007)—Wrist fractures can be serious business, such as when they lead to a condition called complex regional pain syndrome. According to a new study in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, the syndrome might be avoided by taking vitamin C.

Complex regional pain syndrome most often follows an injury to a limb. Although the nerves themselves are not directly injured, symptoms are related to changes in nerve function.

If it’s not treated early, complex regional pain syndrome can lead to irreparable muscle damage, causing the fingers or toes to stay in a fixed position. While medications and physical therapy can ease symptoms, preventing the syndrome altogether is preferable.

Earlier studies have shown that vitamin C can help reduce the likelihood of developing complex regional pain syndrome following a wrist fracture. The new study aimed to determine the optimal dose of vitamin C to reduce risk.

After being seen in an emergency room for a wrist fracture, 317 people were given vitamin C (200 mg, 500 mg, or 1,500 mg per day) and 99 people were given a placebo for 50 days, starting the day of the injury.

A total of 18 people, all elderly women, developed complex regional pain syndrome within one year after fracturing a wrist. Those women whose casts caused them discomfort were more likely to suffer from the syndrome. Taking 200 mg of vitamin C wasn’t enough to significantly reduce the risk developing complex regional pain syndrome, but taking 500 mg or 1,500 mg decreased the risk from 10% in the placebo group to just under 2%.

“By scavenging free radicals, vitamin C might help speed healing time and prevent future inflammatory conditions,” says Dr. Clara Barnett, a naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist practicing in New York City.

The researchers concluded, “The present study confirms that vitamin C can have an inhibiting effect on the occurrence of complex regional pain syndrome after wrist fractures. We recommend 500 mg of vitamin C per day for 50 days after a wrist fracture because we believe that such treatment may prevent complex regional pain syndrome.”

Dr. Barnett added, “Vitamin C is a low-cost, safe supplement; it’s worth a try for the suffering it could help prevent.”

(J Bone Joint Surg Am 2007;89:1424–31)

Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp practices as a birth doula and lectures on topics including whole-foods nutrition, detoxification, and women’s health.

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