Health — 01 May 2013

bigstock-Woman-Taking-Pills-13884533By: Ed Coghlan

Nutraceuticals are formulated nutritional supplements and herbal products that provide medical or health benefits.  They are used by many people in pain, and there is a good reason why.  They work.

Nutraceuticals have been shown to help reduce pain associated with different chronic pain conditions and diseases, including:

Osteoarthritis and Joint Pain

Among the most widely used and studied nutraceuticals for pain relief are glucosamine combined with chondroitin sulfate.  The National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine’s website states that “Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate provide a statistically significant level of pain relief for 79% of people with moderate-to-severe knee pain due to osteoarthritis.”

According to Dr. Mark Stengler, a naturopathic medical expert and host of PBS’ “Natural Healing with Mark Stengler”, “the latest research shows you need the anti-inflammatory power of fish oil to complete the picture – because together, these two supplements are far more effective at reducing and even eliminating joint pain,” his website states.

Migraine Headache

In a clinical study on magnesium for the treatment of migraine headache, 41.6% of individuals taking a patient-specifically-dosed amount of magnesium showed a significant improvement. Doctors Christina Sun-Edelstein and Alexander Mauskop who authored the study wrote, “Patients often seek nutraceuticals for headache treatment after finding conventional therapies ineffective or limited by side effects.”

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Joint Pain

Another nutraceutical, capsaicin, is widely used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis to help relieve joint pain.  How does it work?

According to, “Capsaicin contains an enzyme that gives chili its heat. Used as a cream rubbed over and around painful joints, it creates irritation of the skin. This, in turn, activates nerve fibers in the skin. The end result is to distract the brain-body from recognizing joint pain.”

Diabetic Neuropathy

Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALC) has been shown to be “efficacious in alleviating symptoms, particularly pain, and improves nerve fiber regeneration and vibration perception in patients with established diabetic neuropathy,” according to a 2005 study published in Diabetes Care.

Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy

According to the American Cancer Society, chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) may potentially be prevented with a regimen of Vitamin E – a powerful antioxidant, calcium and magnesium, and other supplements that may protect nerve cells from damage due to chemotherapy.

While nutritional supplements are not necessarily a front-line defense for profound chronic pain, they may offer benefits to overall health as well as help reduce pain.  For those with moderate-to-severe pain, nutraceuticals may offer much more direct benefits.

Nutraceutical Regulation and Marketplace

Nutraceuticals are regulated differently in different countries.  In the US, the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate nutritional supplements and the claims related to how they are marketed in the same way it does with pharmaceutical drugs.  Nutraceuticals are regulated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

They are marketed to promote a wide range of health benefits, such as:

  • Pain relief
  • Joint support
  • Digestive health
  • Stress
  • Sleep
  • Urinary health
  • Heart health
  • Mental acuity
  • Prostate health
  • Energy

The nutraceutical industry is projected to reach $250 billion dollars globally by 2018.

While there are several studies that support the use of nutraceuticals for specific pain conditions (a sampling appears above in this article), there may be nutraceuticals that can benefit people in pain that have not been studied as robustly.  Before starting a regimen of nutraceuticals to reduce pain, consult your physician to ensure you do not experience unwanted side effects or interactions with medications.


About Author

Ed Coghlan

Ed is a former television news director at KCOP in Los Angeles and the Montana Television Network. He writes on health, economic and public affairs issues.

(2) Readers Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing information regarding joint pain, It would be more helpful if it contains treatment tips.

  2. I agree with the comment regarding use of fish oil for OA, but would go further and add krill oil, rosehips, collagenII and pine bark extract. I have outstanding OA relief with a multi-nutrient supplement that contains these ingredients (OmniFlex). I would also rank alpha lipoic acid above ALC for diabetic neuropathy.