The most important supplements for the treatment of chronic pain are the B-complex and C vitamins. The spine is surrounded by the watery cerebrospinal fluid, which, in healthy individuals, contains a higher concentration of these water-soluble vitamins than is commonly found in the blood. A combination of thiamine (B1), vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 has been shown to significantly improve symptoms for those complaining of severe pain. In a study of back pain sufferers, this combination (100 mg B1, 200 mg B6 and 0.2 mg B12, each three times daily) was used over six months. Only 32 per cent of those taking the vitamins suffered relapses in back pain, compared to 60 per cent receiving the placebo.
Adequate vitamin C intake is necessary to maintain the integrity of spinal discs. Deficiency in copper and selenium may also be contributory factors in chronic pain; 90 to 100 mcg of selenium alone or in addition to 20 IU vitamin E, taken daily, has been shown to improve musculoskeletal complaints.
Proteolytic enzymes - such as bromelain, papain, trypsin and chymotrypsin - may help heal minor injuries because they are anti-inflammatory and capable of being absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract.
Several small trials have shown that both bromelain and papain can help reduce pain and swelling, and promote faster healing, in people suffering from a variety of conditions, including back strain.