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Side effects of conventional medication for joint pain can leave you in worse shape than when you started.
With almost one in four people suffering, what is the solution? Eating the right food and introducing supplements to fight joint pain can bring huge relief.
Here we take a look at the 9 best joint supplements and other natural remedies worth your time and money.
Joint Pain All Over
Joint pain is inflammation, pain, aching, stiffness, or swelling at any location where two parts of the skeletal system are joined together.
Joint pain is not just something just older adults get.
Athletes commonly experience back pain and knee pain.
Many people can’t perform normal, everyday tasks because of chronic pain in their joints.
We recommend getting diagnosed by a qualified healthcare professional. However, there are also some lifestyle changes you can incorporate while waiting on that doctor’s appointment.
Causes and Risk Factors of Joint Pain
There are several causes and risk factors for joint pain. These can help identify your level of risk.
This includes all types of arthritis:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Gonococcal arthritis
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Reactive arthritis
- Septic arthritis
- Gout (arthritis related to excess uric acid)
- Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (used to be called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis)
But there are also a host of other conditions that can lead to chronic joint pain:
- Sprained or broken bone
- Bone dislocation
- Polymyalgia rheumatica
- Rheumatic fever
- Lyme disease
- Bone cancer
If any of these conditions apply to you, you are at an increased risk of developing chronic pain in your joints.
Over-the-Counter Medications for Joint Pain
It’s common to look for an over-the-counter or prescription medication to find instant joint pain relief. Some of the first options people look to include:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs/NSAIDs (like ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, aspirin, etc.)
- Cox-2 inhibitors (like Celebrex)
- Acetaminophen for pain without swelling (like Tylenol)
- Antidepressants or antiepileptic drugs, which dull pain receptors
- Prescription opioids for severe, unresolved joint pain
There are a number of side effects associated with drugs for joint pain, though. For instance, regularly taking blood thinners like aspirin can increase your risk for dangerous bleeding. Tylenol has been connected with liver damage.
Even the National Arthritis Foundation recognizes that overuse of NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal problems, dangerous bleeding, and issues with the heart and kidneys.
Prescription opioids, antidepressants, and antiepileptics have side effect lists often longer than the benefits they claim. Opioids may also negatively interfere with your immune system over time.
And we’ve all seen the headlines about opioid addiction—this overwhelming epidemic has gotten so bad that sufferers have been pursuing (and winning) litigation against the pharmaceutical companies who manufacture them.
Dietary supplements for joint pain, on the other hand, may help relieve joint pain without the resulting side effects.
While using medications to treat this pain may be the only option in some situations, using joint supplements, dietary measures, and lifestyle changes to improve joint function will be gentler on your body in the long-term.
The 9 Best Joint Health Supplements
What supplements help joint pain? Because there are a ton of supplement companies out there trying to sell the “best” pill for joint pain, we wade through the gimmicks to give you only evidence-based recommendations.
The following nine joint health supplements may promote healthy joints without the side effects of pharmaceutical options.
1. Fish Oil
Fish oil supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory effects.
These fatty acids can also be obtained by consuming oily fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, cod, and halibut. Still, many people elect to take a supplement to get concentrated, consistent benefits.
Evidence seems to show fish oil is most effective for people suffering from joint pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
3 grams of fish oil, twice daily, to reduce inflammation and soreness
2. Glucosamine Sulfate
Glucosamine sulfate is part of the natural makeup of your cartilage. It’s made from the nonessential amino acid glutamine. Taking these joint supplements could prevent the risk of joint cartilage degradation associated with arthritis.
This supplement is harvested most often from shellfish. There are actually two types of glucosamine used in most supplements: glucosamine hydrochloride and glucosamine sulfate.
An analysis of 19 clinical trials showed that glucosamine hydrochloride is “ineffective for pain reduction in patients with knee osteoarthritis.”
However, another study focusing on glucosamine sulfate as a treatment for moderately severe arthritis pain in patients’ knees produced better results than the standard acetaminophen treatment.
After being administered for an extended period of time, glucosamine sulfate, combined with chondroitin sulfate (another natural chemical in our cartilage), has been shown to observably delay the progression of osteoarthritis in the knee.
500 milligrams of a glucosamine supplement, 3 times a day
Glucosamine sulfate is best, while glucosamine hydrochloride seems to be ineffective. Take with meals for best results.
3. Chondroitin Sulfate
Recent analysis suggests its benefits may due, in part, to its synergistic impact with other ingredients — not the result of this chondroitin sulfate alone.
When isolated and used in larger trials, a chondroitin supplement doesn’t consistently produce the same effects previously accredited to it.
That being said, it’s best to use a glucosamine-chondroitin combo instead of just chondroitin. Some joint supplements combine glucosamine, chondroitin, and frankincense for the strongest effects.
1,200 milligrams of chondroitin sulfate, 3 times a day, with glucosamine sulfate and meals
Boswellia serrata is a compound from the resin from the Boswellia tree — commonly called frankincense. Traditional Chinese herbalism and Ayurvedic medicine have used this plant for centuries.
One study even aimed to prove that boswellic acids in combination with MSM (methylsulfonylmethane, a natural pain reliever found in plants) could outperform glucosamine sulfate in the treatment of osteoarthritis.
However, the most exciting research might come out of an animal study that found a “synergistic effect” of combining boswellic acids and glucosamine. This research is emerging, but suggests that the combo may be more powerful than either individual nutrient alone.
800 milligrams of Frankincense oil, 3 times a day
If you haven’t noticed a significant change in a matter of weeks, increase your dose to 1,500 milligrams, 3 times a day.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. Collagen makes up your connective tissues, like the cartilage found in all your joints. Supplementing collagen comes with a myriad of benefits.
However, natural collagen production slows after the age of 25. People of many ages suffer from a deficiency that may necessitate joint supplements.
Research indicates collagen is an effective treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee, as well as rheumatoid arthritis.
Type II collagen is best known for its joint support. Type I collagen seems to be better for skin health.
10 grams of type II collagen daily for joint pain and inflammation
Hydrolyzed collagen is more easily digestible than collagen peptides. In addition, collagen is best if taken in an easily digestible powder in combination with hyaluronic acid or vitamin C.
6. Vitamin C
Good news for people who suffer from joint pain in the cold: A recent animal study found that vitamin C reduces the effects of arthritis in joints exposed to cold stress.
However, it facilitates the digestion of other joint supplements, such as collagen.
If you’re looking for a great joint supplement, chances are that vitamin C will be listed as a main ingredient.
Pineapples, which are rich in vitamin C, also contain an enzyme called bromelain. Bromelain has shown promise as an anti-inflammatory.
90 milligrams per day for non-smoking adults
We suggest getting your recommended daily allowance through your diet, not only supplementation.
Curcumin is the component of turmeric that provides its yellowish coloring. Sourced from a plant in the ginger family, it is a staple in many curry dishes and has been used medicinally in India for thousands of years.
Though curcumin is a powerful antioxidant with strong anti-inflammatory properties, the actual amount in turmeric is pretty low. So, a more concentrated extract is needed to make a supplement for joint health.
Couple that with curcumin’s poor bioavailability (meaning it’s not easily absorbed and utilized by the body when eating in food form), and you need to look very carefully for the right curcumin supplement.
But it is definitely worth the search. There is high-quality evidence indicating that curcumin makes a notable difference in patients with inflammation, fatigue, oxidative stress, pain, and even depression.
Try these fun recipes for turmeric ginger tea — a tasty way to reap the benefits of curcumin.
500 milligrams of curcumin with 20 milligrams of piperine (black pepper extract) 3 times a day.
If taken with a fat- or oil-rich meal, the absorption rate goes even higher, since curcumin is fat-soluble. For a joint pain-busting experience, take a curcumin supplement with a fatty fish-centric meal to get plenty of omega-3s.
8. Vitamin D
Another fat-soluble nutrient, vitamin D can be obtained naturally from fish, eggs, dairy, and sunshine — or as an extract in the form of caplets.
Most Americans are in need of a little vitamin D supplementation to achieve optimum levels. In fact, up to 90% of people in the US are deficient! Plus, vitamin D is partly how your body metabolizes calcium, which can strengthen joints when absorbed efficiently.
What’s the advantage to taking vitamin D supplements for joint pain? In one study, the vitamin D group reported a lot less joint pain than the placebo group.
Low vitamin D levels can lead to increased joint pain. Research links people who developed rheumatoid arthritis and those that had vitamin D deficiencies. If you’re at risk for joint pain, it may be beneficial to begin a vitamin D supplement.
One placebo-controlled trial found that vitamin D supplementation in patients with lupus seemed to improve inflammation levels.
1,000 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily (between 25 and 50 micrograms)
Vitamin D3 is more effective than vitamin D2 at raising blood vitamin D levels. However, vitamin D2 is less expensive.
Vitamin D supplements for joint pain should be taken with a fat-rich meal to increase absorption.
9. Cissus Quadrangularis
Also known as “Devil’s Backbone”, cissus quadrangularis is a wide growing perennial from the grape family, said to have its roots in Ayurvedic medicine. Even thousands of years ago, cissus quadrangularis was widely known as one of the more effective joint supplements.
Most notably, a pilot study in healthy men who experienced joint pain from excessive exercise found their joint pain was reduced by 31 percent after taking 3,200 milligrams of cissus quadrangularis daily.
However, no placebo control group was used in this study. We don’t discount the results, but we do hope for more thorough studies to follow.
3,200 milligram dose of cissus quadrangularis daily
This dose seems most effective for athletes and those who practice high-intensity exercise. If that’s not you, try a lower dose.
Food and Exercise for Joint Health
Although many doctors are ready to prescribe pills for joint pain relief, there are several natural, easy remedies for joint inflammation. Sometimes, the best joint supplements are tasty, too.
Carbs and sugars can lead to chronic inflammation that can last for years. And most of us eat a lot of carbs and sugar in our daily lives. Switching to an anti-inflammatory diet can promote joint health, as well as other major benefits throughout the body.
There are several healthy foods that will protect your body from unnecessary joint pain:
- The Mediterranean diet (rich in fatty fish, olive oil, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits)
- Leafy green vegetables
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Beets in raw or powdered form
- Healthy fats from oils and fish
- Nuts and dark chocolate
- Spices and peppers
- Green tea or red wine
Anti-Inflammatory Herbs and Spices
Besides turmeric, there are several other spices and herbal supplements for joint pain.
Everyone knows exercise is good for you. But it’s useful for more than just losing weight.
Low-impact exercises help maintain our joint health and flexibility. Stretching can reduce back pain and provide joint support. Losing weight reduces the strain on your joints, which can make a great difference in joint pain for those who are overweight.
- Joint pain is inflammation, aching, or stiffness where two parts of the skeletal system join together.
- Many people are at risk for joint pain, no matter their age. One quarter of American adults experience joint pain.
- There are several joint supplements for joint pain and stiffness backed by quality scientific evidence.
- Fish oil
- Glucosamine combined with chondroitin
- Frankincense (boswellia serrata)
- Collagen (with hyaluronic acid or vitamin C)
- Vitamin D3
- Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet and exercising are two more ways you can naturally promote healthy joints.