9 Supplements for Fibroymalgia Painby Karen Lee Richards Patient Advocate
The pain of fibromyalgia can be difficult to get under control. For most, it takes a combination of treatments which may include medication, gentle exercise, complementary/alternative therapies, and lifestyle changes. One complementary option some fibromyalgia patients have found effective is nutritional supplements. Following are nine supplements commonly recommended for fibromyalgia pain.
Magnesium and malic acid
It has long been known that fibromyalgia patients usually have low magnesium levels. In fact, magnesium was one of the first supplements to be recommended for fibromyalgia. Magnesium and malic acid have been found to work particularly well together as a team. In a 1992 study, fibromyalgia patients taking the magnesium/malic acid combo reported a significant reduction in pain and had notably fewer tender points.
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 percent of patients with chronic pain were deficient in vitamin D. For more information, read “Vitamin D for Chronic Pain.”
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 fibromyalgia patients who are also dealing with depression, clinical trials have shown SAM-e to be comparable to prescription antidepressants.
5-HTP is thought to work by boosting the levels of serotonin in the brain, which is known to be low in many FM patients. In one double-blind, placebo controlled study, people taking 5-HTP showed a significant improvement in pain, number of tender points, stiffness, anxiety, fatigue and sleep.
Turmeric has been used in Indian ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Curcumin, the active ingredient in tumeric, has anti-inflammatory properties that may promote soothing comfort in muscles and joints by blocking the COX-2 enzyme, which can trigger inflammation and pain.
Boswellia serrata, also known as Indian frankincense, was frequently used in ancient Indian ayurvedic medicine. Boswellia is a tree resin known for its ability to soothe joint, muscle, and connective tissue pain. It is also one of the rare treatments that decreases elastase, an inflammatory mediator found to be elevated in those with fibromyalgia.
Eastern medicine has used ginger for centuries to treat a wide variety of conditions including pain. 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. A 2010 study demonstrated that it can effectively relieve muscle aches and pains, concluding that ginger is an effective pain reliever.
Devil's claw is an herbal supplement that can help switch off inflammation. The University of Maryland Medical Center cites numerous studies demonstrating the effectiveness of devil's claw for relieving pain. In a 54-week trial, devil's claw was found to work as well as the prescription drug Vioxx in relieving pain. (The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has since taken Vioxx off the market due to increased risk of heart problems.)
White willow bark
The use of willow bark to treat inflammation goes all the way back to the time of Hippocrates (400 BC) and is still used today to reduce inflammation and ease pain and headaches. White willow bark contains salicin, a chemical similar to aspirin, which scientists think is responsible for its pain relieving effects. Studies comparing white willow bark to various nonsteroidal medications have found its effectiveness to be comparable.
Remember that nutritional supplements have to build up in your system, so it may be a few weeks or in some cases a few months before you begin to notice a difference. Be sure to check with your doctor about any supplements you want to add to your treatment plan. Some supplements may interact with medications you are taking or may not be recommended for other health issues you have. For more information, read “Need-to-Know Facts About Supplements.”