Text Link

Learn more about the results we get at Within

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Learn more about the results we get at Within

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Anorexia joint pain, muscle, bone and body aches

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious eating disorder that affects both the mind and the body. People with anorexia nervosa often have pain throughout the body, including bone and joint pain and muscle and backaches.

There are several reasons why these body aches and pains can occur in people who have anorexia nervosa. Many of those reasons have to do with vitamin and mineral deficiancies.

Our program can help

86% of our patients reported an improved quality of life post treatment.

How we do it

Last updated on 
October 11, 2022
January 18, 2024
In this article

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies commonly seen in anorexia

We get the nutrients our bodies need to function properly from food, which is digested through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The GI tract, in turn, breaks down food, and nutrients are then transported throughout the body to where they are needed. 

Since those with anorexia severely limit the amount of food they eat, their bodies don’t get the vitamins and minerals they need to perform vital functions.

Severely malnourished anorexia nervosa patients in recent studies were found to have the following nutrient deficiencies: (1) 

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamins B1, B9, and B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin K
  • Calcium
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Selenium
  • Thiamine
  • Zinc

These vitamin and mineral deficiencies can cause all kinds of problems in the body for those with anorexia. Aches, pains, and weakness in the muscles, joints, bones, and other parts of the body that make up the musculoskeletal system are just a few that deficiencies in vitamins B, C, D, and K, as well as many minerals, can lead to. (2,3)

woman at doctor office

Anorexia and joint pain

Joints need many nutrients to function effectively, including vitamins C and D. The vitamin C deficiency that occurs in anorexia can cause joint pain. The tissue that is contained in joints and connects bones and muscles together contains collagen. Collagen becomes fragile when there’s a vitamin C deficiency, which results in joint pain. 

Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with knee aches and weakness. (4) Studies have shown that higher levels of vitamin D can stop inflammation in the joints. 

When muscles waste away, as often happens in people who have anorexia, joints weaken without the muscle mass to support them. In working towards recovery, magnesium supplementation has been found to improve the ability to move and walk in those who have lost muscle mass. 

A manganese deficiency can also cause joint pain. This trace mineral is needed for the body to make its own chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine, which help prevent joint pain. Many people take chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine supplements for joint health.

Joints also need silica for cartilage. Although there isn’t currently any measurement tool for silica as a nutrient, supplements such as diatomaceous earth have been found to help bones and joints heal.

{{link-bank-two-column}}

Anorexia and bone pain

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Without enough vitamin D, the body can’t absorb calcium, which promotes bone growth.

Low calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 levels in those who have anorexia result in loss of bone density (osteoporosis) and weakened bones (osteomalacia) over time, causing fractures to occur.

It’s estimated that up to 90% of women with anorexia have low bone mineral density associated with risk of fracture. (7) Thus, bone pain may be directly related to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. 

But restoring healthy bones is possible.

Anorexia body aches 

The aches and pains people with anorexia frequently experience may be caused by inflammation in the body. Inflammation, in turn, is caused by deficiencies in Vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids, which inhibit prostaglandin E2, which causes inflammation in the body. So those with low vitamin D levels generally experience  more pain. Supplements can help reduce muscle pain, however should be used with caution. (8)

Magnesium also stops pain by blocking NMDA receptors that send pain signals into the body. Many people with anorexia have a magnesium deficiency, so they tend to feel more pain, since pain signals are not suppressed.

Anorexia treatment that comes to you
Learn about our virtual treatment program
shopping for vitamins

Back pain and other aches

The vitamin D deficiency common in anorexia can also contribute to rib, leg and back pain; as well as widespread pain in the body, such as what happens in fibromyalgia. (9) A thiamine deficiency can also contribute to pain.

Muscle pain and weakness 

Deficiencies in vitamin D, thiamine, and phosphorus can cause muscle weakness throughout the body, too. Having anorexia and muscle pain or general weakness is a common experience among those suffering from the eating disorder.

When to get help for anorexia

It’s never too early or late to get help for anorexia nervosa. This eating disorder can do serious life-long damage to the body, and even be deadly if left untreated for too long. However, early intervention and an individualized treatment approach can be very effective and lead to lasting recovery. If you are looking for help overcoming anorexia nervosa, please reach out for professional help immediately. The clinical care team at Within Health offers highly specialized, personalized care for eating disorders. We’re here for you when you’re ready.

Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

Disclaimer about weight loss drugs: Within does not endorse the use of any weight loss drug or behavior and seeks to provide education on the insidious nature of diet culture. We understand the complex nature of disordered eating and eating disorders and strongly encourage anyone engaging in these behaviors to reach out for help as soon as possible. No statement should be taken as healthcare advice. All healthcare decisions should be made with your individual healthcare provider.

Resources

  1. Hanachi, M., Dicembre, M., Rives-Lange, C., Ropers, J., Berner, P., Zazzo, J., Poupon, J., Dauvergne, A., Melchior, J. Micronutrients deficiencies in 374 severely malnourished anorexia nervosa inpatients. Nutrients. 2019 Apr 5;11(4):792. Accessed January 14, 2022.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30959831/
  2. Urano, A., Hotta, M., Ohwada, R., Araki, M. Vitamin K deficiency evaluated by serum levels of undercarboxylated osteocalcin in patients with anorexia nervosa with bone loss. Clinical Nutrition. 2015 Jun;34(3):443-8. Accessed January 14, 2022.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24909585/
  3. Woodruff, P.W., Morton, J., Russell, G.F. Neuromyopathic complications in a patient with anorexia nervosa and vitamin C deficiency. International Journal of Eating Disorders. 1994 Sep;16(2):205-9. Accessed January 15, 2022.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7987355/
  4. Mat, S., Jaafar, M.H., Sockalingam, S., Raja, J., Kamaruzzaman, S.B., Chin, A., Abbas, A.A., Chan, C.K., Hairi, N.N., Othman, S., Cumming, R., and Tan, M.P. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with ethnicity and knee pain in a multi-ehtnic South-East Asian nation: Results from Malaysian Elders Longitudinal Research (MELoR). International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases. 2018 May21(5):930-936. Accessed January 14, 2022.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29611292/https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12346313/
  5. Fazeli, P.K. Low bone mineral density in anorexia nervosa:  Treatments and challenges. Clinical Reviews in Bone and Mineral Metabolism. 2019 Jun;17(2):65-76. Accessed January 14, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31938025/
  6. Heide-Frankling M, Bjorkhem-Bergman L. Vitamin D in pain management. Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Oct 18;18(10):2170. Accessed January 13, 2022.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29057787/
  7. Doulberis, M., Papaefthymious, A., Kountouras, J., Polyzos, S.A., Srivastava, S., Klokowska-Roetzler, J., Perrig, M., Papoutsi, S., Exadaktylos, A.K., Srivastava, D.S. Vitamin D deficiency and unclear abdominal pain in patients from low- and middle-income countries. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2019 Nov 20;16(23):4607. Accessed January 13, 2022.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31757059/
  8. Heidari, B., Shirvani, J.S., Firouzjahi, A., Heidari, P., Hajian-Tilaki, K.O. Association between nonspecific skeletal pain and vitamin D deficiency. International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases. 2010 Oct;13(4):340-6. Accessed January 14, 2022.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21199469/
  9. Linus Pauling Institute. Accessed January 14, 2022. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu

FAQs

Further reading

Exercise bulimia vs. anorexia athletica

Many people know at least a little bit about eating disorders like anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia...

Do I have anorexia nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is an eating disorder that may manifest differently in different people and can...

What is weight restoration?

Weight restoration refers to the process of returning to a healthier body weight after experiencing weight...

Does anorexia cause dehydration?

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious and life-threatening mental health condition that commonly manifests as...

Does anorexia face swelling occur?

The severe nutritional deficiency seen in those with anorexia nervosa (AN) can lead to edema, which is a...

Signs and symptoms of starvation

Malnutrition is an unfortunate and potentially dangerous condition that impacts the ways the body is able...

Anorexia health risks and dangers

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious eating disorder that can result in a variety of medical complications...

Anorexia's effect on your organs

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious mental health disorder, but the condition nearly always manifests as a...

Why does anorexia bloating occur?

While not an official medical term, “anorexia bloating” can be used to describe bloating that occurs as a...

Anorexia and bruising: Signs, causes, and healing

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a dangerous mental health condition, but it can also manifest in several physical...

What happens to hair growth when you have anorexia?

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a severe mental health disorder, characterized by an extreme fear of gaining...

What are the effects of anorexia on teeth and oral health?

Anorexia nervosa (AN) may be a mental health disorder, but it can have a number of physical consequences...

Mental health and physical medical complications of anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a dangerous eating disorder that affects all facets of someone's life, with the...

Yellow skin in anorexia nervosa: Jaundice symptoms

Anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and other eating disorders affect more than someone's mental...

Edema in anorexia recovery: causes, symptoms and treatment

Edema anorexia is common in patients with both subtypes of anorexia, with...

Refeeding syndrome and anorexia

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a dangerous eating disorder that requires specialized care and treatment to overcome.

How does anorexia affect the brain?

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious mental health condition most often associated with extreme food...

How does anorexia affect eyesight?

Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa (AN), binge eating disorder (BED), and bulimia nervosa (BN) may each...

Can anorexia cause heart problems?

Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa (AN) are mental health conditions, but they can result in a number...

How anorexia affects hands: cold, shaking, tingling and discolored fingernails

You may not realize that the eating disorder anorexia nervosa (AN) can affect every part of the human body...

Does anorexia cause parotid gland swelling?

Anorexia nervosa (AN) does cause parotid gland swelling, particularly if AN is...

The occurrence of anorexia and mood swings

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious eating disorder that involves caloric restriction...

Does anorexia cause diabetes?

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a common eating disorder that can seriously impact someone's mental, physical, and...

Can eating disorders cause anemia?

Anemia is a condition that occurs when there aren’t enough healthy red blood cells in the...

What causes lanugo hair in anorexia?

The disordered eating patterns involved with anorexia nervosa (AN) can impact nearly every function of the...

Anorexia nervosa and brain fog: What is it?

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious mental health condition, which can manifest as any number of complications.

Anorexia nervosa ketoacidosis symptoms

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious mental health condition, but it can have just as many detrimental effects..

Anorexia and your digestive system

Anorexia nervosa (AN) can definitely affect your digestive system. One of the most...

Anorexia and the kidneys

Those who struggle with anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN) often develop...

Anorexia joint pain, muscle, bone and body aches

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious eating disorder that affects both the...

Can anorexia cause IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)?

Research highlights the increased prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in those suffering from an....

Anorexia and hypermetabolism

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a mental health condition, but the eating disorder nearly always has an outsized...

Anorexia and lower back pain

Individuals with anorexia nervosa (AN) live with an intense fear of gaining...

Anorexia and gastroparesis

Gastroparesis (literally meaning “stomach paralysis) is a condition that affects the movement and muscles...

Anorexia and cachexia

Cachexia is a very serious, complex condition that occurs with anorexia...

Anorexia and constipation

Constipation, or not being able to pass stool regularly or completely, is a fairly common condition that...