Try Supplements

Supplements

Many people take supplements to help relieve pain and other symptoms. But talk with your doctor first -- some can cause side effects or interfere with other meds. Supplements are generally not very well researched, so most of what we know about how well they work comes from small studies. Track any supplements you take and note which help your symptoms.

Conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine, back pain, neck pain, nerve pain, undiagnosed

Symptoms: Unrefreshing sleep, stiffness, concentration problems, memory problems, fatigue, anxiety, depression, swollen joint, joint pain, muscle pain, pain, pain worse in A.M., tenderness, stiff joint, swollen joint, difficulty sleeping, aching,

Triggers:

Treatments:

Categories: Treatment

Duration

30

Do Your Homework

Supplements may help some people ease pain or other symptoms. However, they are not regulated by the FDA in the same way drugs are; manufacturers are not required to show their products are safe or effective. So it's important to learn all you can about a supplement before you decide to take it. Also, be sure to talk with your doctor before starting a new supplement -- some supplements can cause side effects and interact with medications.

Prompt: Safety first.

CTA: Learn all you can about supplements.

Conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine, back pain, neck pain, nerve pain, undiagnosed

Symptoms: Unrefreshing sleep, stiffness, concentration problems, memory problems, fatigue, anxiety, depression, swollen joint, joint pain, muscle pain, pain, pain worse in A.M., tenderness, stiff joint, swollen joint, difficulty sleeping, aching

Triggers: Medication side effect

Treatments:

Categories: Treatment

Select USP or NSF

The FDA does not regulate supplements in the same way as medications. But a few nonprofit organizations review supplements for overall quality of the ingredients and brand credibility. Before you buy a supplement, look for a seal from the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) or NSF International, or check on the ConsumerLab Web site for proof of quality.

 

Prompt: Buy carefully.

CTA: Read supplement labels.

Conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine, back pain, neck pain, nerve pain, undiagnosed

Symptoms: Unrefreshing sleep, stiffness, concentration problems, memory problems, fatigue, anxiety, depression, swollen joint, joint pain, muscle pain, pain, pain worse in A.M., tenderness, stiff joint, swollen joint, difficulty sleeping, aching

Triggers:

Treatments:

Categories: Treatment

Track Supplements

If you decide to try a supplement, only use one at a time. That will make it easier to tell whether it helps ease your symptoms and if you have any side effects. Remember, you may need to give supplements some time to take effect. Track the brand name and dose in your Journal and compare it to your pain level.

Prompt: Don't double up.

CTA: Try one supplement at a time.

Conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine, back pain, neck pain, nerve pain, undiagnosed

Symptoms: Unrefreshing sleep, stiffness, concentration problems, memory problems, fatigue, anxiety, depression, swollen joint, joint pain, muscle pain, pain, pain worse in A.M., tenderness, stiff joint, swollen joint, difficulty sleeping, aching

Triggers:

Treatments:

Categories: Treatment

Take the Right Dose

It's important to take supplements according to the label instructions. If you have any questions about how much you should take, ask your doctor. Don't take more than directed on the label unless your doctor tells you to.

Prompt: Take as directed.

CTA: Heed dosing instructions.

Conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine, back pain, neck pain, nerve pain, undiagnosed

Symptoms: Unrefreshing sleep, stiffness, concentration problems, memory problems, fatigue, anxiety, depression, swollen joint, joint pain, muscle pain, pain, pain worse in A.M., tenderness, stiff joint, swollen joint, difficulty sleeping, aching

Triggers: Medication side effect

Treatments:

Categories: Treatment

Include Supplements

Don't forget to include supplements in your master list of medications. List the brand name, ingredients, and dosage. Supplements can interact with other medications and treatments, so it's important to include them on any list you give to your doctor, pharmacist, or any other health care provider.

Prompt: Keep a list.

CTA: Write down all your supplements.

Conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine, back pain, neck pain, nerve pain, undiagnosed

Symptoms: Unrefreshing sleep, stiffness, concentration problems, memory problems, fatigue, anxiety, depression, swollen joint, joint pain, muscle pain, pain, pain worse in A.M., tenderness, stiff joint, swollen joint, difficulty sleeping, aching

Triggers: Medication side effect, medication change

Treatments:

Categories: Treatment

Fish Oil

The omega-3s in fish oil may help reduce inflammation, morning stiffness, and overall pain, especially if taken in adequate doses. Small studies show it may also ease migraine symptoms. Good sources include fatty fish such as salmon and herring. You can also get it from fish oil supplements. Fish oil may increase the risk for bleeding in some people, but usually just in very high doses. Don't take it if you take aspirin or blood thinners such as warfarin unless under the supervision of a doctor.

Prompt: Boost omega-3s.

CTA: Fish oil may help reduce pain.

Conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine

Symptoms: Stiffness, swollen joint, joint pain, muscle pain, pain, pain worse in A.M., tenderness, stiff joint, swollen joint, aching

Triggers:

Treatments: Fish oil

Categories: Treatment

Borage Seed Oil

Borage seed oil contains gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid that may help relieve swollen and tender joints. Some people find they need less prednisone for RA symptoms while using the supplement. But borage seed can cause some side effects, including upset stomach, diarrhea, or bloating. It can affect the liver and may make liver problems worse. It may also increase your risk for bleeding, especially if you are taking aspirin or blood thinners.

Prompt: Have swollen joints?

CTA: Borage seed oil may help.

Conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms: Stiffness, swollen joint, joint pain, tenderness, stiff joint, aching

Triggers:

Treatments: Over-the-counter drugs, prednisone

Categories: Treatment

Cat's Claw

Some small studies show that cat's claw, made from the bark of an Amazon vine, may slightly reduce swollen joints and pain. Rarely, it may cause dizziness, nausea, and headaches. It also may interfere with managing blood pressure during or after surgery, so tell your doctor if you are taking it. Pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant should not take cat's claw.

Prompt: A cat's claw pill?

CTA: It's not a magic potion.

Conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis

Symptoms: Stiffness, swollen joint, joint pain, muscle pain, pain, tenderness, stiff joint, aching

Triggers:

Treatments: Over-the-counter drugs

Categories: Treatment

Folic Acid

Folic acid is a type of B vitamin found in food. It helps build red blood cells in your body. Your doctor may recommend taking folic acid supplements if you're taking Rheumatrex or Trexall (methotrexate). Studies have shown that in patients taking methotrexate for rheumatoid arthritis, folic acid may help reduce the side effects of the drug such as mouth sores and inflammation.

Prompt: Take methotrexate?

CTA: Vitamin B eases side effects.

Conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms: Fatigue, symptoms worse in A.M., weakness, fever, reduced joint movement, stiffness, stiffness after rest, deformed joint, stiff joint, swollen joint, warm joint, joint pain, muscle pain, pain, aching

Triggers:

Treatments: Trexall, Folex, Rheumatrex, methotrexate

Categories: Treatment

Build Your Bones

People with arthritis who take prednisone have a higher risk for bone loss. Getting enough vitamin D and calcium can help protect you from bone loss. These nutrients are found in some foods. Plus, your body can make vitamin D from sunlight. But if you don't get enough from these sources, ask your doctor if you need to take supplements.

Prompt: Bone builders.

CTA: Calcium and vitamin D help build bone.

Conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis

Symptoms: Fatigue, symptoms worse in A.M., weakness, fever, reduced joint movement, stiffness, stiffness after rest, deformed joint, stiff joint, swollen joint, warm joint, joint pain, muscle pain, pain, aching

Triggers: Medication side effect

Treatments: Prescription medications, Deltasone, prednisone

Categories: Treatment

Natural Substances

Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are two substances found in normal cartilage. Many people with OA take these supplements together to help reduce pain. Most experts don't recommend them as treatment for OA anymore, however, but don't discourage people who are on them and find them helpful. In studies the formulation, manufacturer and dose seemed to make a difference, so share the specifics of yours with your provider. 

Prompt: Sore joints?

CTA: Supplements may help ease OA pain.

Conditions: Osteoarthritis

Symptoms: Stiffness, swollen joint, joint pain, muscle pain, pain, tenderness, stiff joint, aching

Triggers:

Treatments:

Categories: Treatment

MSM

MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is a sulfur compound found in living things, including fruits, vegetables, and humans. No large studies of MSM have been done, but one small study of people with knee OA found it reduced pain and improved function. MSM can cause diarrhea, headache, rash, and tiredness. You should not use MSM if you are taking blood thinners, such as aspirin or warfarin.

Prompt: Ease OA pain.

CTA: MSM may help decrease OA pain.

Conditions: Osteoarthritis

Symptoms: Stiffness, swollen joint, joint pain, muscle pain, pain, tenderness, stiff joint, aching

Triggers:

Treatments:

Categories: Treatment

SAM-e

SAM-e is a chemical found naturally in the body. Some studies show it may help treat the pain, stiffness, and swelling of OA. Some small studies show it may also help fibromyalgia symptoms. SAM-e can cause an upset stomach and headache. It can also interact with some meds and make Parkinson's disease worse.

Prompt: SAM-e for pain?

CTA: It may be a natural painkiller.

Conditions: Osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia

Symptoms: Stiffness, swollen joint, joint pain, muscle pain, pain, tenderness, stiff joint, aching, burning

Triggers:

Treatments:

Categories: Treatment

Slow OA with ASU

Avocado soybean unsaponifiables (ASU) is a vegetable extract produced from the oils of avocado and soybeans. Studies show that it may help prevent cartilage from breaking down and provide relief from the pain of OA.

Prompt: ASU for pain.

CTA: A vegetable extract may slow OA.

Conditions: Osteoarthritis

Symptoms: Stiffness, swollen joint, joint pain, muscle pain, pain, tenderness, stiff joint, aching

Triggers:

Treatments:

Categories: Treatment

Fruit for Fibro

Eat a bowl of red and blue fruit. Cherries, blueberries, and raspberries are all packed with a colorful compound called anthocyanin. In one study, this substance helped people with fibromyalgia sleep more soundly. Don't like berries? You can take anthocyanin in supplement form, but ask your doctor about side effects like nausea and indigestion.

Prompt: A colorful cure?

CTA: Berries may help you sleep.

Conditions: Fibromyalgia

Symptoms: Fatigue, difficulty sleeping, unrefreshing sleep, aching, joint pain, tenderness

Triggers:

Treatments: Supplements, dietary changes

Categories: Treatment

Try Melatonin

For fewer sleepless nights, consider taking a melatonin supplement before bed. This natural hormone helps regulate your body's sleep-wake cycle, and it may help you fall asleep faster and snooze more soundly. Melatonin can sometimes have side effects, including headaches and dizziness, and can interact with certain medications. Also, make sure you're not still drowsy before you drive the next morning.

Prompt: Out of rhythm?

CTA: Get sleep back on track.

Conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine, back pain, neck pain, nerve pain, undiagnosed

Symptoms: Fatigue, difficulty sleeping, unrefreshing sleep, insomnia

Triggers:

Treatments: Supplements

Categories: Treatment

Vitamin B12

Did you know that having very low levels of vitamin B12 -- found in many animal products and fortified foods -- can worsen or even cause some types of nerve damage, such as tingling and numbness? Older adults, strict vegetarians, and people with certain health conditions are more at risk for B12 deficiency. Some stomach surgeries and medicines can interfere with the absorption of the vitamin. Ask your doctor if you should be tested for a B12 deficiency -- and whether supplements could help your symptoms.

Prompt: Low B12?

CTA: Get tested -- it could cause nerve pain.

Conditions: Nerve Pain

Symptoms: Difficulty sleeping, depression, muscle weakness, burning, headache, pain, pain with movement, lower back pain, upper back pain, sharp pain, shocking pain, extreme sensitivity, loss of feeling, numbness, tingling, electric pain, pins and needles

Triggers: 

Treatments:  Vitamin B12, dietary changes

Categories: Treatments

Alpha-Lipoic Acid

The antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid -- found in foods such as yeast, broccoli, potatoes, and spinach -- may help with diabetic nerve pain. Some people with nerve pain take alpha-lipoic acid supplements daily, but ask your doctor before you start using it. People with diabetes or low blood sugar should use alpha-lipoic acid supplements with caution because they can lower blood sugar levels.

Prompt: Antioxidant power?

CTA: Try alpha-lipoic acid.

Conditions: Nerve Pain

Symptoms: Difficulty sleeping, depression, muscle weakness, burning, headache, pain, pain with movement, lower back pain, upper back pain, sharp pain, shocking pain, extreme sensitivity, loss of feeling, numbness, tingling, electric pain, pins and needles

Triggers: 

Treatments:  Alpha-lipoic acid, dietary changes

Categories: Treatments

Acetyl-L-carnitine

Acetyl-L-carnitine is derived from amino acids that occur naturally in the body. Studies have found that carnitine supplements may help relieve diabetic neuropathy and other types of nerve pain.  Some animal products such as meat, fish, and milk are good sources of carnitine.

Prompt: Help nerves heal.

CTA: Try carnitine.

Conditions: Nerve pain

Symptoms: Difficulty sleeping, depression, muscle weakness, burning, headache, pain, pain with movement, lower back pain, upper back pain, sharp pain, shocking pain, extreme sensitivity, loss of feeling, numbness, tingling

Triggers: 

Treatments:  Carnitine, dietary changes 

Categories: Treatments

Excess Vitamin B6

Don't assume that all supplements are safe if you have nerve pain. Getting enough vitamin B6 in your diet is essential to healthy nerve function. However, taking very high doses of vitamin B6 have been shown to cause nerve pain. Talk with your doctor to make sure you're not accidentally getting too much from fortified foods and vitamin supplements.

Prompt: Too much B6?

CTA: It can cause nerve pain.

Conditions: Nerve pain

Symptoms: Difficulty sleeping, depression, muscle weakness, burning, headache, pain, pain with movement, lower back pain, upper back pain, sharp pain, shocking pain, extreme sensitivity, loss of feeling, numbness, tingling

Triggers:  Foods

Treatments: Dietary changes

Categories: Treatments

Be Patient

If your doctor suggests supplements for nerve pain, give them time to work. Studies have found that after starting vitamin B12 for nerve pain due to B12 deficiency, it can take several weeks or longer to obtain a normal vitamin B12 level. It's not easy, but try to be patient. The same is true for omega-3s, or some of the herbal medicines.

Prompt: Be patient.

CTA: Give supplements time to work.

Conditions: Nerve pain

Symptoms: Difficulty sleeping, depression, muscle weakness, burning, headache, pain, pain with movement, lower back pain, upper back pain, sharp pain, shocking pain, extreme sensitivity, loss of feeling, numbness, tingling

Triggers: 

Treatments:  Vitamin B12, dietary changes

Categories: Treatments

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on January 19, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

American College of Rheumatology: "Herbal and Natural Remedies."

Arthritis Foundation: "Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiables."

Arthritis Foundation: "Common Therapies to Consider."

Arthritis Foundation: "Evaluating the Safety of Supplements."

Arthritis Foundation: "Supplement Guide: MSM."

Arthritis Foundation: "Supplement Guide: SAM-e."

Arthritis Today: "Supplements for Your Symptoms."

Arthritis Today: "Supplement Guide: Fish Oil."

University of Michigan Health System: "Inositol."

University of Maryland Medical Center: "Alpha-lipoic acid."

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Antioxidants;" "6 Things You Should Know About Dietary Supplements for Osteoarthritis;" and "Sam-E."

Arthritis Today: "Supplement Guide: Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiables."

Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, February 2009.

CDC: "Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Among Patients with Arthritis."

ConsumerLab: "How to Read a ConsumerLab.com Approved Quality Seal."

Harris, R. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, August 2005.

De Silva. Rheumatology, 2010.

Ko, G. The Clinical Journal of Pain, February 2010.

Lippiello, L. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, October 2007.

MedlinePlus: "Fish Oil."

MedlinePlus: "Melatonin."

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: "Chronic Pain and CAM: What the Science Says;" "Fibromyalgia and CAM: At a Glance;" "Rheumatoid Arthritis and Complementary and Alternative Medicine;" and "Supplement Guide."

National Fibromyalgia Association: "Newly Diagnosed Patient."

National Headache Foundation: "Fish Oils."

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: "Questions and Answers about Fibromyalgia."

NSF.org: "Understanding Dietary Supplement Labels."

University of Maryland Medical Center: "Fibromyalgia."

US Pharmacopeial Convention: "USP Verified Dietary Supplements."

Office of Dietary Supplements: "Vitamin B12."

Pitler, M. Clinical Journal of Pain, October 2008.

Sima, A. Diabetes Care, January 2005.

Office of Dietary Supplements: "Carnitine."

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: "Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet."

Bartley, J. Medical Hypothesis, December 2009.

Soderstrom, L. Diabetic Medicine, Jan. 2012.

© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.