One of the most commonly overlooked aspects of self-care is joint health. Joints are points in the body where two or more bones connect to each other. They provide crucial support and range of motion, yet many people pay little attention to them until they start to ache.
Common treatments for joint pain include physical therapy, balms, and over-the-counter or prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Any amount of joint damage caused by injury or disease can affect movement and cause severe pain if not tended to properly. In this post, we’ll discuss common causes for joint pain and easily accessible supplements that have been proven to help prevent it.
Common Causes of Joint Pain
Joint pain can be caused by many factors, some of which are easier to remedy than others. Below are some of the most common root causes of joint pain:
- Wear and tear from overuse
- Poor posture
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Rapid or excessive weight gain
Knee pain is arguably the most common form of joint pain in American adults, followed by shoulder and hip pain. However, it’s worth noting joint pain can manifest anywhere including the smaller joints in the hands and ankles.
Do Joint Supplements Really Work?
Whether joint supplements “work” depends on the root cause of pain. In cases where pain is caused by diminishing thickness of cartilage, lack of lubrication in the joints, or strain from overuse, supplementation can be very effective. If the pain is nerve related, on the other hand, less conventional treatments might be more helpful.
Over-the-Counter Joint Pain Supplements
Joint pain is often accompanied by swelling and inflammation, stiffness, and loss of range of motion. There are many ways to approach both the treatment and moderation of these symptoms. Below are some of the best supplements for managing joint pain, backed by scientific research and years of correlative user reviews.
Chondroitin and Glucosamine
According to some studies, supplementing with glucosamine and chondroitin can help with joint discomfort and function. Both are structural components of cartilage, which helps cushion the ends of bones and prevent friction. The effectiveness of chondroitin and glucosamine varies between individuals, but supplementing with this combination does provide significant pain relief for many by supporting cartilage production.
Cannabis has been shown to help with joint pain and joint health in a variety of ways. It helps reduce inflammation, which is often at the root of joint pain and other chronic conditions, and has been shown to improve sleep quality and duration. Sleep is when the body is most actively regenerating and repairing damaged tissue. Medical marijuana has long been prescribed for chronic pain as well as sleep conditions, but there are also a variety of cannabis-derived products available on the market.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is an active ingredient in marijuana with well-documented anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, actually affecting how the brain perceives pain. Many consumers agree that products like THC gummies are great for relieving pain and are a discreet way to supplement with cannabis.
Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), a natural compound found in plants, fruits, vegetables, and grains, has been shown to help lessen the symptoms of joint-related conditions like osteoarthritis. MSM reduces joint pain by promoting the synthesis of collagen, a protein that helps keep joints healthy. MSM is generally considered safe, but it can cause some side effects such as stomach upset, diarrhea, and headache in excessive doses.
Turmeric is a spice that’s been used for centuries in Indian cuisine, with the added benefit of acting as a natural remedy for joint pain and other health problems. Recent research shows that turmeric may help to improve joint health by reducing inflammation and pain, and may even provide joint support in day-to-day activities (e.g. walking).
Turmeric can be taken orally or applied topically to the skin. Because it’s a spice, it’s generally safe for most people when taken in moderation.
Fish oil supplements have become increasingly popular in recent years, given research has shown that they improve immune function as well as improve skin and hair health. Fish oils are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which support healthy joints and minimize stiffness. Additionally, fish oil helps to reduce inflammation and improve circulation, making it easier for the body to transport nutrients to damaged joints.
If you're considering taking fish oil supplements for joint health, choose a high-quality product that contains at least 2 grams of omega-3 fatty acid. Also, be sure to take the supplement with food to maximize absorption.
Careful supplementation can help lower the likelihood of joint pain or at least minimize its symptoms. The majority of these supplements are also recommended by the Arthritis Foundation for managing arthritis symptoms. Though you can easily purchase these from a drugstore, some supplements can interact with certain medications. Be sure to consult your physician or do your due diligence before incorporating these into your regimen.
How to Choose the Right Joint Pain Supplement
It’s important to begin by assessing your symptoms, as this determines which supplement and dose range is best for your intended use case. Selecting a joint pain supplement can be overwhelming due to the number of products available, many of which have multiple ingredients.
As of this writing, these supplements aren’t actively regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so it’s important to purchase only from reputable companies. Keeping an attentive eye on their ingredient panels and expiry dates is also strongly recommended to avoid adverse reactions or undesirable side effects.