Suffering from joint pain or arthritis? With our active and aging population, joint health is an ever increasing concern. As a consequence, there is a wide array of supplements touted to help with joint problems. I hope with this article I can help you better decide on which are the best supplements for joint health.
Not all arthritis is the same
The term “arthritis” is frequent use to describe any type of joint pain, but not all arthritis is the same. Most commonly what people are referring to is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis characteristically involves physical joint degeneration along with loss of cartilage and the underlying subcondral bone. Osteoarthritis affects more people than any other chronic illness. Most commonly seen in the elderly however, in the knee, it can affect individuals as young as 30. Other common joints involved include the hands, low back and hips. The diagnosis is typically made by complaints of morning stiffness followed by pain aggravated by activity and relieved with rest. Consider trying the following supplements to help improve your joint health.
SAMe, scientifically known as S-adenosyl-L-methionine, is a molecule naturally found in the body that plays important roles in many aspects of the body’s metabolism. It assists in producing neutrotransmitters such as dopamine and sertraline in the brain and cartilage components known as glycosaminoglycans.
Many studies have shown the benefits of SAMe in the treatment of osteoarthritis. An article published in the American Journal of Medicine reported that SAMe effectively treated osteoarthritis in the hips, knees, neck and spine for a period of 24 months with minimal side effects. Another report found that SAMe was equally as effective in treating osteoarthritis pain as ibuprofen and with fewer side effects. The typical dose is 200 mg three times daily.
With age, cartilage loses its gel-like nature and ability to absorb shock. Glucosamine is thought to promote the repair and formation of cartilage while chondroitin works to promote water absorbtion and elasticity in cartilage. Together they work better than either one alone. A major study in Australia demonstrated glucosamine sulfate with chondroitin decreased the progression of joint space narrowing in individuals with early knee arthritis.
Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed benefit in a sub-group of individuals by reducing knee pain with those with moderate to severe osteoarthritis. Pain relief with use of glucosamine/chondroitin was also demonstrated in research presented in the Annals of Rheumatological Disease . Taking a preparation of glucosamine/chondroitin 3 times daily for 6 months was shown to be similar to a prescription medication, celecoxib, although stiffness, swelling and joint function did not improve.
Boswellia, also known as frankincense, is a gummy resin derived from boswellia trees which are commonly found in India. Boswellia has a long history of use in traditional Indian medicine. There is strong evidence that it has anti-inflammatory properties and therefore it has been used in conditions such as arthritis, asthma and inflammatory bowel diseases.
Research has demonstrated significant improvements in pain and functionality scores with use of boswellia in osteoarthritis. A study published in the International Journal of Medical Sciences showed improvements of pain scores by 47% with which were seen within 7 days of treatment.
Another study from the Indian Journal of Pharmacology demonstrated reductions in knee pain and swelling after taking boswellia for 2 months. A typical dose of boswellia is 100 mg taken 1-3 times daily. In clinical trials, there have been no significant adverse side effects.
Cetylated Fatty Acids
Cetylated fatty acids are created when an acid is combined with cetyl alcohol. The most common cetylated fatty acid is
cetyl myristoleate which can be used as a topical or oral supplement for osteoarthritis.
Three double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have found cetylated fatty acids helpful for osteoarthritis. Two involved a topical product, and one used an oral formulation.
As published in the Journal of Rheumatology, taking a specific blend of cetylated fatty acids 350 mg combined with 50 mg soy lecithin and 75 mg fish oil seems to decrease pain and improve knee range of motion and function in patients with knee osteoarthritis, although morning stiffness was not improved.
Applying the same specific blend of cetylated fatty acids topically either alone or in combination with menthol also seems to decrease pain and improve functionality in patients with knee osteoarthritis.
Also known by it’s scientific name, Harpagophytum procumbens, devil’s claw is found in South African regions bordering the Kalahari. It’s medicinal properties are derived from it’s tuberous roots.
Several studies support the use of devil’s claw in reducing the pain from osteoarthritis. Published in the journal Phytomedicine, research has shown devil’s claw to be comparable to diacerhein, a medicine sold in Europe that is used in arthritis. After taking a proprietary blend for 8 weeks, patients with low back, hip or knee osteoarthritis all showed some positive response.
Two other double-blind studies showed similiar responses with less pain and improved mobility. A typical dosage of devil’s claw is usually taken at 750 mg 3 times daily.
More than just supplements
Although the above mentioned supplements all have their merit in treating the symptoms of osteoarthritis, it requires a comprehensive program to truely combat this condition. Diet improvements that focus on achieving an ideal body weight and limiting foods that can trigger inflammation are necessary. Exercise is also a crucial element in improving pain and mobility. Physical therapy and accupuncture also have an important role. Only with a multi-disciplinary approach can osteoarthritis be effectively managed.