Conditional Recommendations for Specific Dietary Ingredients as an Approach to Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain: Evidence-Based Decision Aid for Health Care Providers, Participants, and Policy Makers

Pain Med. 2019 Jul 1;20(7):1430-1448. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnz051.


Objective: Approximately 55-76% of Service members use dietary supplements for various reasons; although such use has become popular for a wide range of pain conditions, decisions to use supplements are often driven by information that is not evidence-based. This work evaluates whether the current research on dietary ingredients for chronic musculoskeletal pain provides sufficient evidence to inform decisions for practice and self-care, specifically for Special Operations Forces personnel.

Methods: A steering committee convened to develop research questions and factors required for decision-making. Key databases were searched through August 2016. Eligible systematic reviews and randomized controlled trials were assessed for methodological quality. Meta-analysis was applied where feasible. GRADE was used to determine confidence in the effect estimates. A decision table was constructed to make evidence-informed judgments across factors required for decision-making, and recommendations were made for practice and self-care use.

Results: Nineteen dietary ingredients were included. Conditional evidence-based recommendations were made for the use of avocado soybean unsaponifiables, capsaicin, curcuma, ginger, glucosamine, melatonin, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and vitamin D. In these cases, desirable effects outweighed undesirable effects, but there was uncertainty about the trade-offs, either because the evidence was low quality or because benefits and downsides were closely balanced.

Conclusions: The evidence showed that certain dietary ingredients, when taken as part of a balanced diet and/or as a supplement (e.g., pill, tablet, capsule, cream), may alleviate musculoskeletal pain with no to minimal risk of harm. This finding emphasizes and reinforces the critical importance of shared decision-making between Operators and their health care providers.

Keywords: Dietary Ingredients; Dietary Supplements; Meta-analysis; Musculoskeletal Pain; Systematic Review.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Administrative Personnel
  • Chronic Pain
  • Decision Support Techniques*
  • Diet
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Musculoskeletal Pain*