"I recommend omega-3s to everybody, including those with chronic pain," says Leopold. He says that they help with headaches, back pain, some nerve pain, and autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
"The pain relief you get from fish oil alone is not tremendous," notes Rakel. You can boost the painkilling effects of fish oil by combining it with other pain supplements like turmeric or ginger, says Rakel. But first check with your doctor to be sure those combinations are safe for you.
Vitamin D. A number of studies have linked low levels of vitamin D with increased levels of chronic pain.
One 2009 study looked at the vitamin D levels of people with chronic pain who were using opioid painkillers. Those who had a deficiency of vitamin D needed almost twice as high a dose of medication to control their pain.
Edwards now checks vitamin D levels in many of her patients with chronic pain. If they're lower than 50 to 70 nanograms/milliliter, she might recommend a supplement for natural pain relief.
"Personally, I've seen miracles," she says. "I've found that it can have a huge benefit in the symptoms of people with fibromyalgia." She reports that it's helpful with other kinds of chronic pain too, like bone and joint pain.
Capsaicin. Capsaicin comes from chili peppers and may soothe pain when applied to the skin. "Topical capsaicin seems to be helpful for all sorts of pain," says Edwards. Studies have found it can help relieve pain from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, psoriasis, shingles, and diabetic neuropathy. It may also offer natural pain relief for back pain, fibromyalgia pain, and headaches. Beware: Your pain may worsen for a few days before it improves when you use capsaicin. And there's a risk of skin irritation. Wash your hands very well after applying capsaicin. Don't touch your eyes or other sensitive areas when you have traces of capsaicin on your hands.
Glucosamine sulfate. "When it comes to joint pain, I think glucosamine supplements have some of the best data out there," says Leopold. There's especially strong evidence that this pain supplement can help relieve osteoarthritis pain in the knee. Glucosamine is often combined with chondroitin, which could have an additional benefit.