In order to manage joint pain, relieve discomfort, and improve flexibility people usually opt for joint supplements. These products are made of natural ingredients and promise pain relief as well as many other benefits. With their ever-increasing popularity, you have to wonder if they are worth your money. Are these supplements effective in the first place? The most important thing to consider when looking for joint supplements is their efficacy. This post features a useful rundown of the most popular supplements used for joint pain and discomfort. Let’s see how useful they are.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Glucosamine is a naturally occurring chemical found in the fluid around your joints. Of course, it is also found in other places in nature. For instance, some dietary supplements contain glucosamine harvested from shells of shellfish. That said, some brands don’t use natural sources for this ingredient, they create it in the laboratory.
The primary purpose of glucosamine, considered as one of the best joint pain supplements, is to help the body maintain the health of cartilage, a rubbery tissue that cushions bones at your joints. As we are getting older, levels of this chemical start decreasing which is why taking supplements poses as a practical solution.
Glucosamine for joints is usually taken in doses 500mg three times a day or 1500mg once daily. Naturally, the dosage depends on the product or you can consult your doctor. In most cases, comes in combination with chondroitin.
Chondroitin is a chemical found in cartilage around joints in the body. When it comes in supplements, it can be derived naturally from cartilage of animals such as sharks, pigs, and cows, or it can be man-made.
The evidence on the efficacy of glucosamine and chondroitin is mixed. A study whose findings were published in Scientific Reports confirmed that glucosamine and chondroitin have a comparable efficacy over Celecoxib (NSAID used to treat pain and inflammation) in pain relief and function improvement in individuals with knee osteoarthritis (OA). Some studies show that the combination of two supplements is effective when taken in early stages of osteoarthritis.
On the other hand, a research from the New England Journal of Medicine showed that while the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin may have some efficacy in patients with moderate-to-severe symptoms of knee OA, these benefits aren’t significant. The BMJ published a study with similar findings, scientists found that compared with placebo, glucosamine, chondroitin, and their combination don’t reduce joint pain in people with knee and hip OA and they don’t have an impact on narrowing of joint space.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are the most commonly studied joint supplements; each of these studies has its strengths and weaknesses. Your best bet is to consult your doctor and opt for a product that other users found effective.
SAM-e is a manmade chemical of a naturally occurring compound in the human body. It is used in alternative medicine primarily to help manage osteoarthritis and depression. The supplement acts as analgesic or pain reliever and it has anti-inflammatory properties. SAM-e may stimulate the growth of cartilage while acting on neurotransmitters like serotonin, to reduce the perception of pain.
Evidence shows that although SAM-e has a slower onset of action it is as effective as Celecoxib in the management of knee OA symptoms. More research is necessary to determine the adequate dosage and get a detailed insight into the efficacy of this ingredient.
MSM is a naturally occurring compound found primarily in fresh fruits and vegetables, but it is also present in human body. It has become popular because of the book The Miracle of MSM: The Natural Solution for Pain, but scientific research about this ingredient is limited. People usually take MSM for joint pain, chronic conditions, migraine, headache, relieve PMS, and many other purposes.
A study published in the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage found that 3g of MSM twice a day improved symptoms of pain and physical function, but scientists were unable to confirm the long-term benefits and efficacy. Interestingly, one research found that a combination of MSM and glucosamine produced anti-inflammatory and analgesic effect in osteoarthritis.
Fish oil (Omega-3 fatty acids)
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for our health and wellbeing. Among numerous health benefits of Omega-3 or fish oil supplements, they also show potential in the management of joint pain. They work by blocking inflammatory cytokines and prostaglandins and the body converts them to potent anti-inflammatory chemicals resolvins.
A study whose findings were published in the journal Surgical Neurology revealed that out of 125 participants who responded to the questionnaire 59% discontinued taking their prescription NSAID medications for pain.
Moreover, 60% reported the improvement regarding joint pain intensity and 80% participants said they will continue using fish oil supplements. Scientists concluded that Omega-3 supplements have a potential to reduce arthritis pain and neck and back pain.
On the other hand, the American Journal of Orthopedics published a review which showed that despite the overwhelming popularity of fish oil supplements there is an insufficient clinical evidence to justify their use. Researchers went on to say that although it is impossible to deny benefits of fish oil supplements bearing in mind Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in our health, more research is mandatory. They call for well-designed clinical trials.
Should I Use Joint Supplements?
The decision whether to take joint supplements or not depends on you and your preferences. Some people prefer taking these products because they fit into a naturalistic approach to health and wellbeing.
Before you purchase any supplement it is useful to consult your doctor and see whether he/she recommends it. This is particularly important if you’re already taking medications or have some health condition.
Although these ingredients, and many others, do show great potential in relief of joint pain and discomfort, bear in mind that clinical evidence is limited. Some studies confirm their efficacy, while others don’t. This emphasizes the importance of further research with more participants.
To minimize the risk of side effects, choose supplements made by reputable brands and always check customer experiences. Don’t fall for exaggerated claims made on the label.
Joint supplements use natural ingredients to relieve pain and discomfort. Studies show mixed results about their efficacy, thus stressing the importance of consulting your doctor before you make a purchase. Remember, even if you use supplements, it is still necessary to have a healthy lifestyle characterized by a well-balanced diet and regular exercise.