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Do Vitamin B12 Shots Work?

I Got a Vitamin B12 Shot, Then Slept Like a Baby — So I Asked Doctors If There's a Link

Young woman lying on a bed in her bedroom, using smart phone and drinking first morning coffee

Recently, I had a spa day at California-based chain Burke Williams — and it wasn't your typical "lemon water, massage, sauna, and go" kind of day. The spa had recently added certain medspa treatments to the lineup, and as the true investigative health journalist that I am (all about trying IV drip therapy or crystal healing at least once), I obviously had to check it out.

If you're unfamiliar, a medspa is sort of what it sounds like: a medical spa. Essentially, these facilities offer results-oriented wellness treatments — like vitamin shots, IV infusions, dermatological treatments, and things like Botox — that you wouldn't get at a traditional spa. These treatments should be administered by a medical professional, though the state you live in will determine exactly who's qualified to do so. As always, you should consult your own doctor first.

At Burke Williams, I was treated by a nurse practitioner (one of the approved professionals under California law), who explained that the spa's vitamin B12 shot would help me get more restful sleep and feel more energized during the day — exactly what I needed, both mentally and physically, since I've been recovering from a car accident. Together, the massage and shot were packaged as the ultimate rejuvenation treatment, and my back muscles and I were super eager for those results.

Burke Williams' site purports the following claims: that the B12 shot helps with tiredness or fatigue, immune system function, red blood cell production, mood swings, irritability, and balance issues. Research has shown that B12 is especially important for women in their "childbearing" years, while one study in particular called vitamins B6, B9, and B12 "essential for optimal physiological and neurological functioning," and listed disturbed sleep as one of the symptoms of a deficiency. I had heard similar benefits of B12 from my psychiatrist a few years ago, and the shot was only $25, so I figured, "What the heck!" and went for it.

The nurse practitioner, Lisa, was incredibly knowledgeable. She walked through my list of allergies and consulted on some things that may or may not work for my body, so I felt like I was in good hands. She then explained that the shot is best delivered on your side, above the hip, so I lifted the side of my oversized spa robe (so luxe), felt the quick but painless pinch of the syringe needle, and a few seconds later I was on my way, veiled in a dreamy haze of relaxation. I honestly don't know why Lea Michele says these things hurt so bad.

At first, it was hard to tell if the calm, clearheaded, recharged results were from my shot, from the massage, from the sauna, or from an overall exceptionally relaxing day (to be honest, I felt so unbelievably zen that I signed up for a monthly spa membership . . . hello, self-care). I didn't fully discover the potential results of the B12 shot until the next morning, when I checked my Sleep Cycle alarm clock data. The previous night, my sleep quality had been 78 percent (based on movement, noise, time spent in deep sleep, etc.), but after the shot? It was 98 percent! A 20 percent increase ain't nothin' to balk at!

To learn if the B12 shot was actually everything I imagined it to be, I conferred with a couple MDs who aren't affiliated with this type of medical treatment. The gist? The B12 shot probably isn't harmful, but just how helpful it is remains unclear. According to Erica Patel, MD, an internist in Los Angeles, there's not a ton of medical research to back up its efficacy (though one study found that combining B12 with omega-3s and folic acid may reduce oxidative stress).

And if you're trying to use B12 to "fix" something (like chronic fatigue, severe depression, or insomnia, for example), versus just get a nice little boost now and then, Los Angeles-based internist Jena Sussex-Pizula, MD, suggests getting to the root of your symptoms first. In other words, don't expect this supplement to solve a larger problem. "B12 levels should be checked prior to supplementation to ensure that symptoms such as fatigue or neurological symptoms aren't due to some other overlooked cause, as blindly supplementing with B12 might delay treatment for another underlying disease," she told POPSUGAR.

As someone who'd been prescribed B12 supplements in the past, I felt completely comfortable trying the shot, particularly because it was administered by a nurse practitioner. It was a lovely sort of à la carte addition to my massage treatment, and like I said — I slept like a baby. Whether it was the shot or not, I needed those precious zzz's.

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