Leopold says that the studies suggest that glucosamine not only eases pain, but also slows the progression of osteoarthritis.
SAMe. There's good evidence that SAMe offers natural pain relief to people with osteoarthritis. Some studies have found that it's about as effective as prescription painkillers like Celebrex. But there's a catch to this pain supplement: the cost.
"SAMe can run $80-$120 a month," says Edwards, "so I tend not to use it very much. I can usually get results that are just as good with less expensive treatments."
Magnesium. The evidence is mixed. But some studies have found that magnesium supplements can help with pain caused by conditions like migraines, muscle spasms, and fibromyalgia. Some experts speculate that magnesium deficiency could be a widespread problem.
"It's really easy to be magnesium deficient," says Edwards, who recommends magnesium supplements for her chronic pain patients. "The foods that are highest in magnesium are things like sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. Most of us just don't eat those very often." Regularly drinking alcohol can also deplete your magnesium levels.
Acetyl-L-carnitine. Several studies have found that the nutrient acetyl-L-carnitine can ease nerve pain from diabetes. This pain supplement also seems to regenerate damaged nerves and, over time, restore sensitivity.
Alpha-lipoic acid. Like acetyl-L-carnitine, alpha-lipoic acid seems to help with diabetic neuropathy. "Preliminary but promising evidence shows that it not only reduces pain, but also seems to slow down the progression of the nerve injury," Rakel tells WebMD. "It may help protect the nerves from further damage."
Alpha-lipoic acid may also enhance insulin sensitivity -- another benefit for people with diabetes. There's evidence that this pain supplement can help with nerve damage caused by cancer treatments, too.
Bromelain. The enzyme bromelain, which comes from the pineapple plant, appears to reduce inflammation and pain. Some studies have found it helpful in osteoarthritis and knee pain. There's some uncertainty about how well it gets absorbed in digestion, given that it could be neutralized by stomach acid. More research needs to be done.
Riboflavin (vitamin B2). "There was promising research showing that riboflavin might help reduce the frequency of migraines," says Rakel, but a recent study did not support the claim. Rakel still thinks it's safe to try for up to eight weeks, given its high safety rating. There's some evidence that CoQ10 and standardized extracts of butterbur (petasites) might also help prevent migraines.
MSM (methylsulfonylmethane). This is a naturally occurring compound in some plants and animals, which has been shown in some preliminary research to reduce osteoarthritis pain. More studies are needed to clarify its safety and efficacy.