What Are the Best Supplements for Joint Pain?

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Daniel Pavlik Sr DC

Apr 21, 2020

There are many causes of joint pain, from arthritis to sports injuries to the simple wear-and-tear of everyday life. Whatever its origin, joint pain can be frustrating and distressing. Many people turn to supplementation as a way to cope with their joint issues. While some supplements have a respectable research pedigree and are even suggested by some doctors, others are less well-supported. Here are some supplements which may be helpful in some instances of joint pain.

Cod-liver oil

Cod-liver oil has been used for joint pain for many years. Studies suggest that it may help prevent the breakdown of cartilage, which could slow the progress of osteoarthritis. Cod-liver oil may also help with inflammation and pain associated with other forms of arthritis, particularly rheumatoid arthritis. While studies conflict, one large and influential 2002 study appeared to show a noticeable reduction in rheumatoid arthritis symptoms in patients who took a gram of cod-liver oil per day.

A similar supplement is krill oil. This is alleged to have similar anti-inflammatory effects to cod-liver oil but is supposedly more powerful. Research into krill oil is somewhat limited, but its use has anecdotal support.

Glucosamine with chondroitin

Some studies have demonstrated modest improvements in arthritis symptoms from taking glucosamine sulfate. A large-scale international study in 2016 (known as the GAIT study) showed more significant improvements when glucosamine was given alongside another compound, chondroitin.

Glucosamine with chondroitin supplements are readily available and are often used for joint pain. Most of the research relates to osteoarthritis; people living with rheumatoid arthritis and other kinds of joint pain may be disappointed.

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)

MSM is a compound that has attracted some interest as a remedy for certain kinds of joint pain. While there is some evidence to support its use in cases of osteoarthritis, there isn’t a lot of research into this compound at present. Currently, available data suggests that MSM is best when combined with other compounds, particularly glucosamine and chondroitin.

While MSM seems to be safe at low doses, it’s essential to know that it may increase blood pressure at higher doses. People who have problems with blood pressure should be careful when using this supplement.

Boswellia Serrata

Boswellia serrata, more commonly known as Indian Frankincense, is traditionally used as an anti-inflammatory. There is some scientific support for its use as a remedy for joint pain. Boswellia is theorized to work by blocking the formation of leukotrienes in the body; these are substances involved in the inflammatory response. By reducing the number of leukotrienes, inflammation can also be reduced.

This supplement is available as a loose powdered resin or in pill form for internal use. It can also be used topically as a cream, which you can massage into the affected joints. When used as recommended, Boswellia appears to be safe for most people.

Turmeric

Made from the root of the Curcuma longa plant, this familiar orange-yellow spice has a long history in traditional Asian medicines. It’s used in this context to treat various inflammatory conditions, including certain types of joint pain.

Evidence for turmeric’s effectiveness against joint pain is rather scant. Some research suggests that curcumin (a substance found in turmeric) can have an anti-inflammatory effect. The theory is that this could help reduce the symptoms of arthritis and other forms of joint inflammation.

Turmeric can be consumed in food and drink or taken in capsule form. It may also be compounded into an ointment and used topically.

Before starting any supplement, you should check with your doctor or another healthcare provider. Some supplements can have unpleasant side effects, while others might interact with any medications that you’re taking at the same time. Your doctor will be able to help you determine whether a particular supplement is safe for you. If your joint pain has developed recently or has recently become worse, your doctor may also be able to help you manage it more effectively.

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