Supplementing for better joint health

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In the world of supplements, you can find an endless array of shelves promising everything from muscle growth to pain management to libido enhancers. Although the industry caters to all walks of life, there seems to be a shift in marketing (and research funding) towards supplements that focus less on aesthetics (muscle building or hair growth), and more on health goals such as depression and pain alleviation.

With spring approaching and as people start exercising more, a lot more of our readers have been asking us specifically about joint health supplements. So here’s a quick overview of some of the most popular supplements in the market, and a potentially promising one.


Who should supplement for joint health?

There are four main groups of people who belong in this particular niche:

  1. Athletes: experience pain associated with repetitive movement, high impact activities and overuse.
  2. Labor workers: often suffers from ‘work-related joint stress’ associated with repetitive movement over long periods of time.
  3. Seniors: people from this (rapidly growing) group typically suffer from common diseases related to aging, such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis.
  4. Overweight people: typically experience pain in joints such as their knees due to the added stress associated with weight gain. People in this category may also suffer from osteoarthritis.

When it comes to dietary supplements however, research for joint pain among the aging and the obese is quite common meanwhile research for stress-related joint pain in athletes and laborers remains limited.


What to take and why

If you’re suffering from joint pain, here are a few supplements worth considering:

  • Glucosamine: Derived from shellfish and used to provide minor pain relief. Glucosamine sulfate slightly delays the progression of knee osteoarthritis.

  • Chondroitin: Frequently paired with glucosamine as a combination therapy to help treat joint pain and stiffness, among other symptoms of osteoarthritis.

  • Curcumin: The active ingredient of turmeric and is also found in Ginger. Curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory and often paired with Black Pepper to maximize absorption.

  • Boswellia serrata: A herb which appears to be quite anti-inflammatory and helpful against osteoarthritis.

Although these commonly used supplements may be helpful for joint pain, they were primarily studied using people suffering from arthritis, with little to no focus on indidividuals from athletic or laboring groups. This makes it difficult to recommend any of these products for athletes experiencing joint pain.

Fortunately, other supplements, like Cissus quadrangularis, show some promise when it comes to treating work-related injuries. However, while the commonly praised benefits of cissus for athletes may make it seem like the go-to supplement for joint pain, with only a single study backing its benefits on joint health, the lack of research behind cissus makes it hard for us to strongly recommend its use for stress-related joint pain.

Supplementing for joint pain takes some prudency and patience to find what works for you, and we at Examine.com can only do so much to narrow down what the most promising and likely options are for you. Our best recommendation? Do your homework before supplementing (for any health goal) and always use supplements alongside good diet and exercise for the best results.

Planning to get fit this spring? Click here to read our blog post on red wine and exercise.


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