A common approach is to treat symptoms of pain with NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen. However, NSAIDs can cause significant side effects. The FDA has even pulled some off the market because the drugs’ overall risk versus benefit profile was unfavorable.
What other options does one have? Natural approaches that focus on providing the body with what it needs to heal itself may be a better option. The ultimate goal is not only to relieve symptoms, but to halt joint degeneration progression, and in some cases, improve joint health. Here’s a review of some of the most researched joint health boosting ingredients.
A typical daily dose is 1,500 mg of either the sulfate or HCl form. It’s relatively inexpensive and should be one of your core supplements.
The results of a meta-analysis of three 2-year clinical trials demonstrated a small but significant reduction in the rate of decline in joint space width in patients with significant knee discomfort. A group of 622 patients received either 800 mg of chondroitin or a placebo once daily for 2 years. The results demonstrated a significant reduction in joint space width loss in the chondroitin group compared to placebo. Furthermore, joint discomfort reduced significantly in the chondroitin group compared to placebo.
The results were mixed in a 24-week study in which osteoarthritis patients took either 1,200 mg of chondroitin sulfate, 1,500 mg of glucosamine HCl, their combination, the drug Celecoxib or a placebo daily. Only in the subgroup of osteoarthritis patients with moderate-to-severe pain did the glucosamine-chondroitin combination prove to be more effective in treating joint discomfort than glucosamine alone, chondroitin alone, Celecoxib alone or placebo. The combo group experienced 25% greater relief than placebo.
The most common dosage is 800-1,200 mg a day. Chondroitin costs about 6-8 times more than glucosamine, making it one of the more expensive ingredients in many joint formulas.
In one study, 49 patients with knee problems received 1,125 mg of MSM three times daily for 12 weeks or a placebo. The MSM group showed a small improvement in joint discomfort symptoms and physical function.
In another 12-week study of 118 patients with knee problems, subjects took either 500 mg of MSM, 500 mg of glucosamine or both three times a day. Results showed joint discomfort significantly improved in both individual groups, but improved twice as much in the combination group.
In a different double-blind, placebo-controlled 12-week study on mild-to-moderate joint problems of the knee, subjects took 3,000 mg of MSM twice daily. Compared to placebo, those taking MSM experienced statistically significant reductions in joint discomfort, and they improved their ability to perform daily activities based on WOMAC scores.
Take about 1,000-3,000 mg a day for joint health. Begin at a lower dose, as it can cause gas until your body gets used to it. MSM is also good for acne, skin, hair and nails even at doses lower than 1,000 mg. Sulfur is found in foods like eggs and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli.
In one study, those taking curcumin for three months had their global WOMAC scores go down 58%, thereby showning significant improvement. A 2008 study out of UCLA also showed curcumin’s beneficial effect on brain plaque (beta-amyloid).
Dosages range from 200-2,000 mg a day depending on absorption qualities.
A double-blind study of 52 people with an average age of 59 taking 40 mg of UC-II® type II chicken collagen for 90 days showed it reduced joint symptoms by 33%, whereas a combo group of glucosamine (1,500 mg) and chondroitin (1,200 mg) saw a 14% reduction.
BioCell® is another type II collagen from chicken sternal cartilage. It naturally contains hyaluronic acid, chondroitin sulfate and type II collagen. According to a recent study, 35% of subjects taking 2,000 mg of BioCell® collagen daily for 70 days had significant reductions in joint discomfort compared with only 2.5% in the placebo group.
In one study, a group of 30 patients were given either 1,000 mg of boswellia extract in three divided doses daily or placebo for eight weeks. The boswellia group experienced significant benefits in joint discomfort and swelling scores, and range of motion compared to placebo.
In a clinical study, both 250 mg and 500 mg of Univestin daily were found to alleviate joint discomfort, act on stiffness and improve mobility as effectively as prescription or OTC drugs.
In one study, one month of 200-400 mg of bromelain supplementation resulted in significant improvement in knee discomfort and stiffness scores.
In one study, 35 participants received either 2,000 mg of MicroLactin® twice daily, 500 mg of glucosamine three times daily or a placebo for six weeks. The MicroLactin® group showed significant improvement for all WOMAC scores (joint comfort, stiffness, immobility and total). The glucosamine group showed improvement in stiffness and total scores. No significant changes were noted in the placebo group.
A group of 64 patients given Celadrin® were tested after 30 days and 68 days of use. Compared to placebo, the Celadrin® group had more flexibility, fewer aches, less joint discomfort and were able to walk further distances. It has immediate and cumulative benefits.
About 1,000 mg (three softgels) of Celadrin® is an effective daily dose.
A meta-analysis of 17 clinical trials showed that supplementation with omega-3s from fish oil for three to four months reduced joint discomfort intensity, tenderness, morning stiffness and the reliance on NSAIDs. Fish and flaxseed oils are good sources of omega-3s.
In one study, subjects who underwent knee surgery took a combination of 20 mg of HA and 400 mg of chondroitin daily for 90 days. They experienced improved joint function and recovery time.
In another study on 20 subjects with knee problems, daily supplementation with 80 mg of HA for eight weeks appeared to be effective for decreasing joint discomfort, improving physical function, and enhancing quality of life. It’s also good for skin health and wrinkles. Typical doses are 50-100 mg a day.
Pycnogenol, from pine bark extract, was given to 100 patients with joint problems. After taking 150 mg for three months, they had significant improvements in joint discomfort, stiffness and function.
SAMe, in one study, when taking 400 mg three times daily for eight weeks, showed a reduction in joint discomfort equal to that of the drug nabumetone.
Tart cherries are rich in powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins. A pilot study found that half of all patients experienced significant improvement in joint discomfort and function after taking tart cherry pills for eight weeks.
Vitamin C supports collagen production.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked with increased levels of an inflammatory marker, TNF-alpha.
I suggest taking a multi-modal approach to joint health by taking basic joint boosting building blocks with other ingredients like good fats to bring the inflammatory process back to equilibrium.