If you suffer from joint pain, you are not alone.
The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion reports(1) that more than one in four Americans suffer from severe joint pain. This is most commonly associated with arthritis(2) although joint pain can occur because of injury or strain.
If you suffer from joint pain, then you know that even simple tasks like standing, bending or holding a cup can become nearly intolerable. That is why finding relief of joint pain symptoms is critical for restoring your well-being.
While there are many factors that contribute to joint pain, such as diet, exercise and the use of pain-relieving drugs, studies have shown that many people find relief of their symptoms using natural supplements.
But what are the best supplements for joint pain in 2020? What does science tell us about the effectiveness of these supplements and how they work?
Curcumin is the main active ingredient extracted from the underground stems (rhizomes) of the plant Turmeric(3). Widely known for its anti-inflammatory properties, this close relative of the ginger root has been used for thousands of years in India and parts of Asia and Central America as both food and a natural medicine.
Boswellia(4) is an extract from the gum of the Indian frankincense tree, which has also been used to treat inflammation for centuries in India, North Africa and the Middle East.
More recently, a double-blind controlled study using daily doses of curcumin extract in combination with boswellia resulted in measurable improvements in joint pain, morning stiffness and physical function within 12 weeks for patients suffering from osteoarthritis compared to the placebo group(7). For example, the combined curcumin and boswellia group showed a 3.6 fold improvement in joint stiffness scores and the curcumin only group showed 2.7 fold improvement over the placebo after 4 weeks. Similar results were recorded for joint pain and improvements in physical performance.
Glucosamine is an amino sugar that your body makes naturally. Amino sugars are the building blocks of cartilage and lubricating fluids that allow joints to move smoothly. The body can use glucosamine from any bioavailable source (8), and it comes in several forms like glucosamine sulphate and the more concentrated glucosamine hydrochloride.
Chondroitin is a substance in the body that helps give cartilage its elasticity(9). As a supplement, It is often sourced from cow or shark cartilage, although plant-based glucosamine is alsoavailable.
The jury is still out on the overall effectiveness of glucosamine and chondroitin as treatments for joint pain, but the research results are accumulating.
While a double-blind study involving 606 patients with knee pain showed a 50% reduction in pain and swelling(10), more recent reviews covering multiple studies suggest that the effects may be merely symptomatic and not relevant for the overall treatment of joint pain(11). This has led to confusion over whether supplementing with glucosamine and chondroitin works.
How can people be experiencing relief of their joint pain symptoms and yet the research remains inconclusive? A more recent review of 30 published trials found that chondroitin had an effect on patient pain and glucosamine reduced stiffness, although further studies on their combined effects are still needed(12).
Recent molecular research into how glucosamine works in the body provides clear evidence of its anti-inflammatory and protective functions(13). There are also calls for human trials to start using higher doses of glucosamine in the treatment of osteoarthritis such that the effects can be more readily identified and measured in the study(14).
Glucosamine and chondroitin are popular supplements for joint pain because people experience relief.
As Robert Shmerling, Senior Faculty Editor of Harvard Health Publishing states: “Even if a treatment is not effective on average, there may be folks who, for whatever reason, get real relief from it.”(15). More clinical research is needed to understand what factors contribute to the positive results.
MSM(Methylsulfonylmethane -(16) is a naturally occurring substance found in some plants as well as in the milk and urine of some animals. It is commonly used as a natural supplement to ease pain and reduce swelling.
MSM has been shown to relieve the joint pain caused by osteoarthritis in a double-blind, randomized study of 118 patients with mild to moderate symptoms, and it worked even better when combined with glucosamine(17).
A double-blind study of 16 volunteers with knee pain showed improvement in joint stiffness and reduced indicators of inflammation (blood serum biomarkers) within six weeks of supplementation with glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM and four other ingredients(18).
These studies suggest that MSM works well in combination with other pain and inflammation reducing supplements.
Perhaps less well-known than the previous natural supplements, calcium fructoborate is a naturally occurring sugar-borate compound that is found in some fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts. Boron is an essential mineral in the human body that is involved in building strong bones(19). It may play a role in reducing the type of inflammation commonly seen in osteoarthritis, which involves the breakdown of the joint and cartilage.
A double-blind study in 2014(21) showed that twice-daily intake of calcium fructoborate significantly reduced knee pain within 7 to 14 days.
More recently, a pilot study involving 72 patients showed significant decreases in blood serum biomarkers for rheumatoid arthritis when calcium fructoborate was added to the treatment protocol(22).
Collagen is a protein found throughout the body, everywhere from your skin and teeth to your bones and blood vessels. Your body can make collagen from protein building blocks called amino acids that are found ina healthy diet.
As your body ages, it slowly loses its ability to absorb all the amino acids for making collagen from your diet. This makes it more difficult to have the glowing skin and firm bodies of our youth.
Aging, too much sunshine, smoking and a processed-food diet can all take a toll on our bodies. That is when a collagen supplement can be useful to boost absorption of protein building blocks and help your body repair itself. This effect can be measured in terms of reduced joint pain.
A double-blind clinical trial involving 55 people experiencing knee pain showed that supplementing with collagen resulted in longer periods of pain-free movement than when given a placebo(23).
This result was confirmed in a 2017 study that looked at athletes suffering with functional knee problems during sports activities(24). Supplementation with collagen in this trial led to a “statistically significant improvement of activity-related joint pain.”
The research suggests that these five natural supplements can help relieve joint pain for some people. Although more clinical research is needed to look at combinations of these supplements and effective dose rates, they have been shown time and again to be safe with minimal side effects.
At Physician’s Choice, we focus on providing sustainably sourced, scientifically backed and third-party tested ingredients in all our supplements. We offerTurmeric (curcumin and boswellia),Joint Support (glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, calcium fructoborate, turmeric and boswellia) andCollagen Peptides as our top choices for reducing the symptoms of joint pain.Sue Senger - Contributing Writer, Physician's Choice