5 Supplements for Fibromyalgia Pain
The pain of fibromyalgia can be difficult to get under control. For most of us it takes a combination of medication, gentle exercise, complementary/alternative therapies and lifestyle changes to achieve any significant degree of effective pain control.
One of the complementary treatment options some FM patients have found helpful is nutritional supplements like vitamins and herbs. There are a number of different reasons you may want to consider supplements:
Prescription drugs just aren’t working for you.
You’re highly sensitive or even allergic to most medications.
The medications you’ve tried have too many side effects.
You’re looking for a natural alternative to pharmaceutical drugs.
Although your medications may be helping, you’re still having quite a bit of pain.
Following are five commonly recommended supplements for fibromyalgia pain:
1) Magnesium & Malic Acid
The magnesium/malic acid combo is the first supplement I remember hearing about for FM more than 20 years ago. Both magnesium and malic acid are needed to generate cellular energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which has been called the "energy currency of life." Since many people with FM are low in magnesium, it seems like a logical choice. I have personally used magnesium with malic acid and found it did help lower my pain level fairly significantly.
2) Vitamin D
A number of studies have found that vitamin D plays a role in various chronic pain conditions including fibromyalgia. In fact, one review of vitamin D research found that 70% of patients with chronic pain were deficient in vitamin D. For more information, read: Vitamin D for Chronic Pain.
3) SAM-e (S-adenosyl methionine)
In one double-blind study of 44 patients with primary fibromyalgia who took SAM-e, improvements were seen in the areas of clinical disease activity, pain, fatigue, morning stiffness and mood. For FM patients who are also dealing with depression, clinical trials have shown SAM-e to be comparable to prescription antidepressants.
4) 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan)
5-HTP is thought to work by boosting the levels of serotonin in the brain. The neurotransmitter serotonin is known to be low in many FM patients. In one double-blind, placebo controlled study, 50 people with fibromyalgia took either 5-HTP or a placebo. After four weeks, the people taking 5-HTP showed a significant improvement in pain, number of tender points, stiffness, anxiety, fatigue, and sleep.
Eastern medicine has used ginger for centuries to treat a wide variety of conditions, including pain conditions like Migraines, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Several Western medicine studies have shown ginger to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties similar to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, but without the dangerous side effects. Now a new study has shown that it can also effectively relieve muscle aches and pains.
Another Possibility - Quercetin & Bromelain
I couldn’t really list the quercetin/bromelain combo under "commonly recommended supplements for fibromyalgia pain" because it’s not one we usually hear much about. The combo is best known for its antihistimine, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and is often promoted for allergy relief. But I do have an interesting story relating to quercetin and bromelain for FM that I’d like to share with you.
Several years ago I was asked to try a new natural product that was described as a "non-prescription medication" and claimed to be very effective in reducing the pain and fatigue of FM. The company listed several clinical trials with impressive results on their Website. I agreed to try it.
When I received the product, the label said it contained quercetin dihydrate and bromelain. To be honest, I had never heard of either at that time. After taking it as directed for 30 days, I had noticeably less pain and more energy. It made enough of a difference that I wanted to continue taking it to see if there would be any additional improvement. The problem was, the price was outrageous and I simply couldn’t afford it.
I kept the original bottle because I wanted to see if I could find the ingredients at a lower price. But, as often happens, I forgot about it until recently when I came across the saved bottle. A quick Google search revealed multiple sources of the quercetin/bromelain at one-fifth the price of the original product.
What makes this story intriguing is that I tried to go back to the Website of the original product because I wanted to get more information on the clinical trials and to see if there was something that distinguished it from the less expensive supplements. Although that site no longer existed, I did find another site selling the same product. Much to my surprise, there was no mention of any clinical trials. Nor was there any information about the product’s ingredients. In fact, there was very little information of any kind. The only thing that hadn’t changed was the price, which was still ridiculously high.
I’m not really sure what happened or why, although I do have a few suspicions. The important point is that the quercetin and bromelain combo did make a difference. I ordered one of the reasonably-priced combos from a trusted source so I can give it another try. I’ll let you know if I see a difference again.
One Final Note
If you take, or are considering taking supplements, there are some important things you need to be aware of. Please read: Need-to-Know Facts About Supplements
Karen is the co-founder of the National Fibromyalgia Association. She wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Pain Management.