Joint supplements are often a variety of minerals, vitamins and natural herbs engineered to help alleviate joint pain, arthritis and inflammation as a result of overuse, or aging. The most common joints that experience pain include the knees, hips, hands, shoulders, and elbows. These aches and pains with age are frequently caused by arthritis.
Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common forms of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common type. Often referred to as the ‘wear and tear’ arthritis, osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage on the end of bones wears down.
Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disorder, causing pain, swelling, inflammation, and stiffness around the affected joints.
Both types of arthritis can occur in any joints throughout the body. Many joint supplements have long been considered useful when it comes to decreasing joint pain and inflammation in such cases. In fact, there are an array of different joint supplements supported by scientific studies and research.
1Glucosamine can reduce symptoms of knee osteoarthritis. A 2007 study assessed the use of glucosamine sulfate when it comes to decreasing symptoms associated with knee osteoarthritis. In the study, 318 knee osteoarthritis patients were involved. These patients received 1500 mg of glucosamine sulfate every day for 6 months.
Researchers concluded that glucosamine sulfate did make significant changes in the patient’s knee osteoarthritis symptoms, especially when compared to the placebo. Overall, they noted an average of 39% improvements in the patients taking glucosamine sulfate (1).
Another study published in 2006 examined the use of glucosamine sulfate in rheumatoid arthritis patients. 51 participants took part in the study. 25 subjects were in the glucosamine sulfate group and took 1500 mg of glucosamine every day. Meanwhile, the placebo group consisted of 26 subjects. The study occurred over the course of 12 weeks. The patients’ self-evaluation scores and the physicians’ overall evaluation showed significant improvements, which indicated to researchers that it did help with symptoms on some level (2).
A 2005 study performed on rats also showed similar findings with glucosamine. It was found by researchers to help the rat equivalent of rheumatoid arthritis via suppressed synovial hyperplasia, reduced cartilage destruction, decreased inflammation, decreased nitric oxide production, and reduced prostaglandin production (3).
A 2010 study explored how glucosamine works to reduce symptoms of arthritis in humans. It was suggested that glucosamine slows the progression of the disease by reducing the progressive narrowing of joint space, especially when taken for 3 or more years (4).
2 Chondroitin, a joint supplement, may help reduce the breakdown of cartilage in those with osteoarthritis. In a 2015 review of various research and clinical studies, the authors inferred that 53% of individuals who take chondroitin have upwards of 20% improvement in osteoarthritis symptoms. It was also shown through various studies that it improved pain in osteoarthritis patients, with little or no adverse effects (5).
A 2006 study in The New England Journal of Medicine involved 1583 participants. The participants took either “1500 mg of glucosamine daily, 1200 mg of chondroitin sulfate daily, both glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, 200 mg of Celecoxib daily, or placebo for 24 weeks.” Knee pain was the primary measurement determining whether treatment was working or not. Alone, glucosamine and chondroitin were found not to have a significant impact on pain levels. However, together they were shown to improve patients’ condition and symptoms (6).
From this study, it’s unclear whether one works better than the other when it comes to glucosamine and chondroitin.
3 S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe) may act as a powerful anti-inflammatory and pain reliever for those with arthritic conditions. Previously, SAMe has been explored for the treatment of osteoarthritis, depression, and liver disease (7).
A 2004 study looked at S-adenosyl-L-methionine in conjunction with managing osteoarthritis symptoms. SAMe was compared to Celebrex in the study. 61 adults with osteoarthritis participated in the study for 16 weeks. Researchers found that SAMe had a much slower onset, but in the long-term was just as effective as Celebrex in managing pain and other symptoms of osteoarthritis (8).
An older 1987 study had found similar results, with the onset of SAMe much slower and actually continuing to have effects long after the study was completed (9).
4 Turmeric and turmeric extract joint supplements may help relieve arthritis pain and inflammation. A 2016 analysis, overviewing various studies, in the Journal of Medicinal Food, showed that turmeric improved pain in individuals with arthritis more than a placebo. Researchers suggested that it may be a comparable entity to ibuprofen (10).
Another scientific article examined its use in conjunction with rheumatoid arthritis. Authors inferred that its pain relieving and anti-inflammatory effects may help aid those with arthritic conditions, possibly alleviating their major complaints and symptoms (11).
A 2006 study also observed the use of turmeric and its effects on arthritis. Researchers concluded that their results further supported the use of turmeric in treating rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. It was found to have, again, anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing properties (12).
5Boswellia is another of many joint supplements that may relieve the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. A 2006 study, published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, observed and explored boswellia and its use on rats with arthritis. Researchers concluded that it did have anti-arthritic and anti-inflammatory effects, possibly due to the suppression of proinflammatory cytokines (13).
Another study, conducted in 2014, looked at the potential of boswellia in its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on arthritis. It was found, again, to inhibit proinflammatory cytokines, as well as have protective effects. This suggests it may prove useful in decreasing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis (14).
A review in the Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences narrowed down boswellia’s mechanism of action. It was found to inhibit the enzymes responsible for inflammation. In turn, it may reduce the pain levels of arthritic patients (15).
6Avocado-soybean unsaponifiables (ASUs) may aid in repairing the cartilage in arthritis patients, as well as help reduce pain levels. A 2009 study compared patients taking 500-600 mg of ASUs per day to a placebo group. After 3 months, researchers inferred that avocado-soybean unsaponifiables were superior to the placebo group in reducing arthritis symptoms (16).
A 2002 study sought out to explore ASUs in relation to joint space in those with arthritis. This study was conducted over the course of 2 years. Patients entering the study had a history of at least 6 months of joint pain associated with arthritis. It was found that ASUs did decrease the progression of joint space lost. Consequently, this may slow the progression of arthritic conditions and prevent painful bone-on-bone grinding (17).
Another, but older, study demonstrated the effective use of ASUs in reducing the need for NSAIDs in lower limb osteoarthritis patients, indicating reductions in pain and inflammatory symptoms associated with arthritis (18).
7 Devil’s claw (harpagophytum) may help reduce inflammation in those with arthritis and other joint pain conditions. In a 2000 study, 122 patients with knee or hip osteoarthritis took 2610 mg of devil’s claw for 4 months. After 4 months, devil’s claw was found to be just as effective as other more well-known anti-inflammatory medications (19).
A 2004 study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology evaluated devil’s claw and its anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing effects in rats. The results presented by researchers showed it did act as a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-analgesic (20).
8 Fish oil is one of many joint supplements that may also reduce inflammatory effects in joint conditions, such as arthritis. A 2017 analysis showed that research indicates that fish oil may reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, but possibly not osteoarthritis. In rheumatoid arthritis patients, fish oil moderately impacted and lowered pain levels (21).
9 Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) may improve pain and function in arthritis patients. A 2004 study performed on mice showed MSM modified the immune response, consequently increasing the function of arthritis patients and reducing pain symptoms (22).
A 2011 study looked into the use of MSM in patients with knee osteoarthritis. 49 subjects were involved in the study. Each subject took 1.125 grams of MSM 3 times a day for 12 weeks. Another group received a placebo. The patients taking MSM for 12 weeks reported reduced pain and improvements in overall physical function (23).
1 Glucosamine and chondroitin have some common side effects, including nausea, heartburn, constipation, and diarrhea. Rarer side effects include skin reactions, headaches, and drowsiness.
2 Chondroitin supplementation may cause bloating, diarrhea, headaches, swollen eyelids, irregular heartbeats, skin rashes, and hair loss. Again, most of these side effects are rare.
3 S-adenosyl-L-methionine may reportedly cause an upset stomach, diarrhea, dizziness, anxiety, sweating, constipation, and irritability.
4Turmeric and boswellia may also cause an upset stomach, diarrhea, dizziness, or nausea. In rare cases, a person may experience an abnormal heartbeat caused by turmeric consumption.
5 ASUs may also cause stomach issues. Though, it is often well-tolerated by most people.
6 In 8% of people, devil’s claw consumption results in diarrhea. Other possible side effects include vomiting, abdominal pain, nausea, headaches, loss of appetite and/or taste, and ringing in the ears. Rarer side effects involve menstrual issues, skin reactions, and blood pressure changes.
To supplement glucosamine, take 300 – 500 mg, three times a day, with food, for a total daily dose of 900 – 1,500 mg. The benefits of glucosamine are dose-dependent, and studies use up to 2,000 – 3,000 mg a day, taken in several doses. Glucosamine sulfate salts are the best way to supplement glucosamine, with glucosamine sulfate as a close second.
A standard dose of chondroitin, if chosen to supplement with, is in the range of 1000-1200mg a day in either one dose or two to three divided doses taken with food.
Studies conducted on humans using Devil’s Claw tend to use a brand called Doloteffin, where 6,000mg of Devil’s Claw root is taken daily which totals 50mg Harpagoside (tends to be used as an indicator of efficacy). It was taken in three divided doses, with 2,000mg taken at each of the three major meals. Benefits of Devil’s Claw extract, as it pertains to arthritis and inflammation, may take upwards of 1-4 months to achieve maximal efficacy.
Studies typically use doses of 500–2,000 mg of turmeric per day, often in the form of an extract with a curcumin concentration that is much higher than the amounts naturally occurring in foods.
For general health, 250mg of combined EPA and DHA is the minimum dose and can be obtained via fish intake. The American Heart Association recommends 1g daily. If the goal of supplementation is to reduce soreness, a 6g dose, spread over the course of a day, will be effective.
Do any joint supplements really work? Yes, most substances work to a certain degree assuming other lifestyle factors are in check.
Is glucosamine good for joints? Glucosamine is a popular supplement used to treat the pain and loss of function associated with osteoarthritis (OA). However, most studies assessing their effectiveness show modest to no improvement compared with placebo in either pain relief or joint damage.
What can you take to lubricate your joints? Omega-3’s high in DHA are the best for this. Get them from salmon, trout, olive oil, nuts, and avocados.
Does glucosamine rebuild cartilage? A systematic review of glucosamine sulfate use for osteoarthritis, based on early research (1956–1991), found that it has anti-inflammatory properties and rebuilds damaged cartilage.
Can glucosamine cause liver damage? The use of products containing glucosamine and/or chondroitin sulfate has been linked to changes in liver function in people with chronic liver disease, a study reports.
Can glucosamine be taken long term? Long-term studies of safety or effectiveness of glucosamine are not available. However, glucosamine is considered quite safe, especially if you are taking less than the standard dose of glucosamine for arthritis (500 mg taken 3 times each day).
What vitamins help with muscle and joint pain? Vitamin D is vital for bone and muscle function and may have anti-inflammatory effects. As a result, many people believe that vitamin D plays a role in relieving joint pain, particularly where inflammation is the cause.
How can I improve my joint health naturally? Omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold-water fish, such as salmon and mackerel, can help keep your joints healthy. In fact, studies show omega-3s can reduce the pain and inflammation of stiff joints in people with arthritis. Some studies suggest that it may contribute to cartilage repair.
Can glucosamine cause high blood pressure? There is some concern that glucosamine might increase blood pressure in some people. Glucosamine might increase insulin levels. High insulin levels are associated with increased blood pressure.
Is glucosamine bad for kidneys? Glucosamine is extensively metabolized in the liver but has some renal excretion. Acute interstitial nephritis has been reported as a possible adverse effect of glucosamine. It is advisable to avoid glucosamine for patients with severe renal impairment and those on dialysis until more data are available.
Is walking good for knee cartilage? Yes, weight-bearing exercise such as walking also helps maintain bone health. Discuss your exercise options with your doctor and physical therapist when you have any condition that is causing knee pain.
There are various joint supplements used to treat joint pain, inflammation, and arthritis symptoms. Glucosamine is a particularly popular joint supplement, with many scientific studies and a ton of research backing up its usage. In particular, it’s been shown to significantly reduce symptoms associated with knee osteoarthritis, including pain and inflammation – two of the main symptoms involved in arthritic conditions.
Chondroitin is thought to slow the breakdown of cartilage in those with osteoarthritis, as well as reduce inflammation and pain; ultimately, improving arthritis patients quality of life and condition.
It should be noted that chondroitin and glucosamine combined may have more powerful effects than when taken separately.
S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe) has long been studied in relation to treating depression, liver disease, and osteoarthritis. It acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory and proven pain-reliever.
Turmeric is a joint supplement that has been compared to similar effects as ibuprofen. It may help reduce pain in those with arthritis.
Boswellia has been narrowed down specifically for its mechanism of action when it comes to reducing inflammation and improving arthritis symptoms. Boswellia works to inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokines. In turn, this decreases the inflammatory response from the immune system and subsequently, decreases pain associated with inflammation in arthritic conditions.
In addition, avocado-soybean unsaponifiables (ASUs) are thought to help repair the cartilage in arthritis patients and decrease their symptoms. Devil’s claw and MSM are further thought to help relieve pain and inflammatory symptoms associated with arthritis.
Before choosing a joint supplement, consider discussing your options with your family doctor. They know you and your situation and health best and will be able to give you an informed opinion and recommendation relating to your specific condition. It is also important to check the label of any product and be well-aware of possible side effects that may occur, even if they are rare. The label will also indicate what other ingredients are in the supplement. It’s rare that a supplement contains solely one ingredient. Do your research and determine the interactions between ingredients before purchasing or consuming.
Your local pharmacist may further help you choose a proper supplement suited to you and your condition. With all the options in the supplement aisle and expensive prices, it helps to get an expert’s opinion to ensure you select the right one. Further, talking with your doctor and pharmacist may help you determine if any adverse reactions may occur with other medication you are currently taking. For instance, blood thinners may react with some supplements, so it is always best to ensure these reactions are limited and eliminated.