The role of vitamin C in the treatment of pain: new insights.
The vitamin C deficiency disease scurvy is characterised by musculoskeletal pain and recent epidemiological evidence has indicated an association between suboptimal vitamin C status and spinal pain. Furthermore, accumulating evidence indicates that vitamin C administration can exhibit analgesic properties in some clinical conditions. The prevalence of hypovitaminosis C and vitamin C deficiency is high in various patient groups, such as surgical/trauma, infectious diseases and cancer patients. A number of recent clinical studies have shown that vitamin C administration to patients with chronic regional pain syndrome decreases their symptoms. Acute herpetic and post-herpetic neuralgia is also diminished with high dose vitamin C administration. Furthermore, cancer-related pain is decreased with high dose vitamin C, contributing to enhanced patient quality of life. A number of mechanisms have been proposed for vitamin C's analgesic properties. Herein we propose a novel analgesic mechanism for vitamin C; as a cofactor for the biosynthesis of amidated opioid peptides. It is well established that vitamin C participates in the amidation of peptides, through acting as a cofactor for peptidyl-glycine α-amidating monooxygenase, the only enzyme known to amidate the carboxy terminal residue of neuropeptides and peptide hormones. Support for our proposed mechanism comes from studies which show a decreased requirement for opioid analgesics in surgical and cancer patients administered high dose vitamin C. Overall, vitamin C appears to be a safe and effective adjunctive therapy for acute and chronic pain relief in specific patient groups.