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On the first post of the Synovation blog, we look at the preventive effect of vitamin C for chronic pain. The common cold is probably the disease most people think about when considering the preventive effects of vitamin C, but some recent studies have shed light on its ability to prevent a debilitating condition called complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS.

CRPS typically affect a minority of people after a traumatic event such as a bone fracture or surgery. It is characterized by pain that is out-of-portion to the original injury that has other characteristic features including swelling, abnormal sweating, nail changes, and color and temperature changes.

In one 2007 randomized controlled study1, clinicians placed 416 patients presenting to emergency departments with wrist fractures into one of four treatment groups, in additional to usual fracture treatment. The participants were to receive a fifty-day supply of placebo, 200, 500, or 1500 mg of vitamin C. The patients were assessed as far as one year out for the development of CRPS and there was a robust preventive effect. Observe below the rates of development of CRPS in the various groups.

Placebo: 10.1%
200mg: 4.2%
500mg: 1.8%
1500mg: 1.7%

In summary, the placebo group developed CRPS 10.1% of the time and the vitamin C group developed it only 2.4% of the time.

Another study in 2009 demonstrated a similarly impressive effect in vitamin C’s preventive effect.2 Two groups of patients who were undergoing foot and ankle surgery were compared. The treatment group received 1 gram of daily vitamin C. The non-vitamin C group developed CRPS at a rate of 9.6% compared with at a rate of 1.7% in the vitamin C group.

While the exact mechanism of its efficacy has yet to be established, the potency of vitamin C in preventing CRPS after wrist fractures and ankle surgery is strongly supported by quality studies.

1. Zollinger, P. E., et al. “Can vitamin C prevent complex regional pain syndrome in patients with wrist fractures?.” The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery 89.7 (2007): 1424-1431.

2. Besse, Jean-Luc, et al. “Effect of vitamin C on prevention of complex regional pain syndrome type I in foot and ankle surgery.” Foot and Ankle Surgery 15.4 (2009): 179-182.