The 7 Best Supplements for Pain Relief

By Caroltoo Latest Reply 2013-01-19 14:29:49 -0600
Started 2012-05-08 11:45:30 -0500

Excerpts from an article on fibromyalgia which has information which could be helpful to all of us as we deal with chronic pain.

If you’re looking for natural ways to fight the aches, stiffness and inflammation, supplements can be a powerful weapon against symptoms. From vitamin D to brown seaweed extract, an arsenal of tools can help reduce pain. Here, experts reveal what works and why…

If you’re not including supplements as part of your pain-management regimen, you could be missing out.

“The right supplements can help muscles relax, which leads to a reduction of pain,” says Jacob Teitelbaum M.D., medical director of the Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers. “Others can prevent pain altogether.”

Some lessen symptoms in as little as a week, while others take longer – 6-12 weeks. But when you’re standing in the supplement aisle, the hard part is figuring out which live up to their hype.

Read on for expert advice on the top 7 supplements for relieving pain and other symptoms.

1. Vitamin D
The “sunshine vitamin” isn’t only good for building bones. An Irish study of fibromyalgia sufferers published in the Clinical Rheumatology journal found a strong correlation between low vitamin-D levels and the muscle aches, anxiety and depression associated with fibromyalgia.

Many of us don’t naturally get enough of this important vitamin, usually because we don’t spend enough time in the sun, our best source of D.

“And as we age, it’s harder for the body to produce vitamin D on its own,” says Angela Snyder, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., a registered dietitian at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville, Md.

If you can’t catch the recommended 10 minutes of sunny rays a day – or don’t want to be outdoors without sunscreen, which blocks vitamin-D-producing UV rays – there are other ways of getting your daily dose of D. Milk might seem like the obvious choice, but you’d need at least two and up to six or more 8-ounce glasses of milk a day.

Swallowing supplements is easier. The government’s daily recommendation of vitamin D is 200 international units (IU) for women age 19-50, 400 IU for women 51-70, and 600 IU for women 71 and up.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans indicate that many people – especially those who are older, have dark skin or are obese – may need a higher daily dose.

Although the current recommended maximum is 2,000 IU a day, some nutrition scientists believe it should be raised. The Food and Nutrition board at the Institute of Medicine is determining whether to update this recommendation.

2. Fish Oil
Thanks to its omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil has terrific anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce pain.

It reduces the body’s production of inflammatory hormones (prostaglandins), says Nehad Soloman, M.D., a board-certified rheumatologist in Phoenix, AZ. And that may mean less stiffness or fewer tender joints.

Taking at least 2,400 mg of fish oil a day can significantly reduce pain, according to a study conducted at the Canadian Centre for Integrative Medicine, published in the Clinical Journal of Pain.

Soloman suggests choosing a mercury-free brand (check the label), although fish oil supplements are considered safe.

3. SAMe
S-Adenosyl methionine, more commonly known as SAMe, is a synthetic form of a compound the body naturally produces. We need it for proper immune function, and it plays a role in the forming cartilage and our DNA, Soloman says.

As we age, our bodies produce less of it, which may explain the increased aches after your 40th birthday.Taking a SAMe supplement not only lessens chronic pain, it can also boost your spirits.

“It assists in the production and breakdown of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine – brain hormones that influence and regulate moods,” he says.

In fibro studies, the recommended dosing is 400 mg twice a day for six weeks, starting with a lower dose and increasing gradually to avoid stomach upset, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. But dosing varies by patient, so ask your doctor.

4. Ribose (Diabetics may want to skip this one; ribose is a sugar)
Tight muscles are a common cause of pain. To relax and release, muscles need energy, Teitelbaum says. And that’s where ribose supplements come in.

Ribose, a simple sugar, can increase energy by an average of 61% – and cut the pain experienced by fibromyalgia sufferers by an average of 15.6%, according to a study Teitelbaum led, published in the Journal of Alternative Complimentary Medicine.

“The energy-building benefit of ribose directly improved the debilitating symptoms of this condition,” Teitelbaum says. Teitelbaum recommends a 5 g dose three times a day.

5. Magnesium
This mineral is a major player in every body part. Not only is it credited with keeping the heart, kidneys and bones strong, it also helps us avoid muscle spasms, weakness and back pain, according to Teitelbaum.

Magnesium is found in green leafy vegetables, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, 100% wheat bran cereal and raw spinach. But these foods are a good source only if you eat them raw – half of the minerals’ benefits are lost when cooked.

Since most people don’t get enough magnesium from these foods alone, take a 200-400 mg magnesium supplement daily.

6. B-complex vitamins
Low levels of the 8 vitamins that make up B-complex – which includes folic acid, riboflavin and thiamine – leave you at higher risk for inflammation, according to a recent Tufts University study published in the Journal of Nutrition.

B6, specifically, was found to help protect against the inflammation that often causes fibromyalgia symptoms.Added bonuses of B vitamins: They can help increase metabolism, maintain muscle tone and enhance immune system function.

Around 200-500 mg is necessary for pain relief, Teitelbaum says.

7. Brown Seaweed Extract
You may not be familiar with these capsules, but this supplement is one to look for. "It’s showing great promise in the fight against chronic pain,” Soloman says.

In fact, taking 1,000 mg of brown seaweed extract daily can reduce joint pain and stiffness by 52%, according to a 2011 study from Australia’s Centre of Health and Wellbeing, published in the journal Biologics.

Even better: These benefits kicked in after just one week, so you don’t have to wait long to find out if it’s working for you. Supplement Smarts
Check with your doctor before taking these or other supplements.

“Like prescription drugs, it’s possible to take too much. And many supplements have side effects,” says David Pisetsky M.D., Ph.D., chief of rheumatology, allergy and clinical immunology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC.

Questions to ask your doctor include:
1. What’s the right dosage for me?
2. Should I take it with food?
3. What time of day should I take it?
4. Will this supplement interact badly with my prescriptions?
5. Does it have side effects that might mimic or aggravate my symptoms (such as depression or sleep difficulties)?

For more information, visit these resources for more information and support:

The National Institutes of Health: Information and resources from the U.S. government’s medical research agency.

22 replies

JlynnNC 2013-01-16 14:30:01 -0600 Report

This is great info for Fibromyalgia conditions! I've also found that the vitamins (I take prenatal vitamins {asked the Dr. to prescribe & he did though I was in my 50's at the time} Vitamin D3, and B12..they really help) & fish oil (tuna & salmon) help!

Caroltoo 2013-01-19 14:29:49 -0600 Report

Wonderful that you are finding some relief from the pain. I've had friends with fibromyalgia so, though I don't have it myself, have enough experience to feel a lot of empathy for those who do! Do keep taking care of yourself.

GabbyPA 2012-05-09 08:31:43 -0500 Report

Very interesting. It's amazing what we could be doing for ourselves if we ate the right foods to have these things naturally in our diets. Would it be recommended to add one at a time or all at once?

And I will just add, when I talk to my doctor about doing these kinds of things, he kind of stares blankly back at me. You may want to consider asking your pharmacist as well, since they really know the interactions and limits better.

Caroltoo 2012-05-11 13:50:36 -0500 Report

Had the same reaction from my doc who diagnosed me with D … supplements: "why?", protein: "no one in the US is short!" In the face of such ignorance, I didn't even argue. That's when I made the decision to go out on my own for prevention ideas and just use him for a crisis I couldn't deal with. Since then I have found a supportive doc, who may not see supplements as her forte, but does support them and even suggests a few from time-to-time.

My dream for US Health Care is that someday our medical docs will be trained to help us prevent disease, as well as to intervene when prevention didn't work, instead of focusing almost exclusively on coping with already developed disease. I really don't blame docs cause that's how they are trained. We do have a long way to go to get anywhere near that goal.

Caroltoo 2012-05-09 12:11:05 -0500 Report

Actually, I've added all this over the years except the SAMe and Brown Sea Weed. My personal theory is that the supplementation I do is part of why I've been able to stop ALL meds, not just D. meds.

I believe we SHOULD be able to do all this with food, but I don't think our current food sources are able to overcome the negative influence of what we have done to our soil and air, well to the environment in general, so I supplement.

GabbyPA 2012-05-10 21:10:35 -0500 Report

so true. I just had a "field trip" to a garden where the man grows tons of food and also makes his own cane syrup, garbanzo flour and fermented foods. Plus a ton more. I was in heaven and found hope. He gave me all kinds of things to add to my garden and ideas for healthy eating. But you are so right, in that we need to supplement because what we eat is so low in nutritional value.

jayabee52 2012-05-08 18:47:22 -0500 Report

Very Good information Carol!

Caroltoo 2012-05-08 18:51:58 -0500 Report

Thanks, James. It was actually written about fibromyalgia, but would help any of us. I took the fibromyalgia out of title cause I thought people would look at it and say, "Oh, that's not for me."

jayabee52 2012-05-08 19:01:57 -0500 Report

You're welcome. I immediately discovered that it was for fibro. (which I think I have also).

Caroltoo 2012-05-08 19:10:14 -0500 Report

Well, it was in the first sentence of my introduction so it wouldn't be deceptive so it didn't really take any discovery.

How do you know if an ache is an ache or if it is fibro? Many of my clients did also and I came to think of it as a lifelong internalization of childhood physical pain.

jayabee52 2012-05-08 19:29:51 -0500 Report

That interpretation may have some merit to it. I am not competent to say more than that. As far as fibro goes there is a good introductory article here ~

My fibro seems to manifest itself mainly throughout my ribcage.

It does come and go and when I suffer an attack my whole ribcage aches. It is kinda like I was the "guest of honor" at a military style "blanket party" where someone has a blanket thrown over them and then socks and bars of soap are used to hit the guest of "honor". My dad told me about them. It was a way of a platoon disciplining a soldier who screwed up without leaving any marks. But boy you felt it the next day, he said.

I feel like that, but without the "party" for about 2 or 3 weeks.

Caroltoo 2012-05-08 19:50:46 -0500 Report

Awie, never heard of a blanket party before. Dad didn't talk much about his days with the Marines in Haiti. That does sound painful!

jayabee52 2012-05-08 20:17:28 -0500 Report

never experienced it either as I was never in the military, but it did sound painful when dad told it. I am going by what he described. I never thought of it before, but I wonder if dad was a guest of honor at one of those? NAAAAH! not MY dad!

jayabee52 2012-05-08 20:58:05 -0500 Report

Well he was DAD!

For the longest time I thought he could do no wrong (even if he did) so perhaps that was experience talking!

Caroltoo 2012-05-08 23:14:18 -0500 Report

Could be, James. We just never know. They were capable of really hidden depths since there weren't all the ways to check information that there is now.

I was a little shocked when I discovered my quiet, self contained, religious father was almost killed by the mafia in Illinois for overseeing or overhearing something while he was repairing one of their cars that they felt should be kept quiet. It was serious enough so he ran and hid for however long it took his wife to have him declaired dead, then began life over with my mother. The fact of this little tidbit didn't turn up until several years after his death. To this day, I have no clue what the actual event was.

jayabee52 2012-05-08 23:49:54 -0500 Report

wow, Carol! A friend of mine originating in Atlantic City has relatives in "the families."

He has a lot of stories about what went on there in AC.

All my dad really wanted to do was to farm, but he got drafted toward the end of WW 2, so he went. Had he signed up for "the duration"of the war he could have been home in about 6 mos. But he signed up for 2 yrs and then he would have been able to get out. He thought that he'd be home sooner if it was 2 yrs and out since the existence of the A-Bomb was not public yet and Japan hadn't yet surrendered.

OH, and did I tell you yet that the Milwaukee trip has been postponed to late June/early July?

I updated my "prayers requested" discussion just tonight. see ~ for details of that update.

jayabee52 2012-05-09 12:09:43 -0500 Report

we're convincing ourselves that it is all for the best. (Which it is — that's my story and I'm sticking to it!)

jayabee52 2012-05-11 17:45:20 -0500 Report

OH and now this morning SQ was really down.

She really misses her mother and it is mother's day coming up, and with all that is going on in her life right now she is really BUMMED. So as it turns out I hadn't moved my flight from Sat, so I will be going anyway! So I leave here about 7am local time. Don't know when I will be coming back as of yet. .

Caroltoo 2012-05-12 00:16:14 -0500 Report

So happy for you both. Take her some flowers for Mother's Day. Glad you hadn't moved your flight, so can make the arrangements easily. This must have been meant to happen. Give us an update when you can.