On supplements for joint pain

One major issue I take with physicians and the medical industry as a whole (and I say industry because medicine has been completely commercialized) is that everyone immediately jumps to prescribing drugs to fix their problems. Not only has this contributed to impending public health crises like the opioid epidemic and antibiotic resistance, a lot of the time, significant research has been done on alternative, natural medicine that successfully treat a wide range of illnesses and symptoms. In this post, I’ll focus on a few more natural supplements that help with joint pain, and how/why they’ve been found to do so. 

1. Turmeric 

Turmeric, the age-old yellow-colored spice, has been used as natural medicine for centuries, dating back almost 4000 years. If it’s not broken, why fix it? Nowadays, it is produced as oral supplementation and is used as an anti-inflammatory agent. More specifically, it’s curcumin and the other phenolic compounds inside the turmeric that are the active ingredient that works to make your joints feel better, and in some cases, even works to combat arthritis (AggarwalKumar, Aggarwal, & Shishodia, 2004). These substances work in sync with one another to block destruction of cartilage and bone and also inhibit the expression of arthritic genes and genes that help produce inflammation– studies that published these conclusions suggest a dose of about 1.5 g/day, but other suggest a combination of supplements are really the best way to feel better (Funk et al., 2006; Rosenbaum, O’Mathuna, Chavez, & Shields, 2010).

 

2. Fish oils (omega-3)

Fish oil is also a popular supplement for joint pain. It’s also rumored to help with the eyes, heart health, the brain, and more. These natural fatty acids have also been shown to not only nip inflammation in the bud, but also reduce pain in the back and spine areas, and are much safer than NSAIDs or other medication (Maroon & Bost, 2006). This works because fish oils disrupt the signals that cells respond to in order to induce an inflammatory response,  decrease interaction between cells that would produce inflammatory activity, and reduce chemical mediators/regulators of inflammation (Calder, 2013). Studies published have shown that those who supplement with fish oils and are plagued by arthritis are more likely to be in remission than their counterparts, and was shown to delay the onset of arthritis to begin with (Calder, 2013). But in order to get the right response, you’ll need to take between 1.5 and 2.7g a day.

 

3. Chondroitin/Glucosamine

Chondroitin and glucosamine are two compounds found in healthy cartilage and other areas of the joints. Supplementation of these are usually done together (which is why I’ve listed them together here), however, it’s been theorized that supplementation together actually limits absorption of either one. And, in terms of effectiveness, Chrondroitin sulfate was shown to modestly decrease joint pain. Alternatively, glucosamine has shown a more protective effect of the joints in some studies focused on osteoarthritis (Henrotin, Marty, & Mobasheri, 2014). However, researchers suggest trying either of these as an alternative if you’re not a fan of NSAIDs– at doses of 1200 mg (400 at a time) and 1500mg (500 at a time), respectively (NIH, 2008). And if these seem to help you, don’t stop taking them. It doesn’t matter if the jury is still convening– everyone’s body is subjective, so if it works for you, stick with it.

 

4. Boswellia

Bosweilla is a plant known for its medicinal properties including anti-inflammatory effects as well as in the treatment of osteoarthritis (Roy et al., 2005). The exact reasoning behind this is still debated, but it’s thought to have something to do with extract/acid from the plant inhibiting cell signaling that would result in inflammation or expression of genes that are associated with arthritis. Overall, though, double-blind placebo-controlled trials (basically, the gold standard of medical trials) showed a significant benefit from giving osteoarthritis-stricken patients Bosweilla, and speak to the medicinal properties and its potential as a supplement for joints (Kimmatkar, Thawani, Hingorani, & Khiyani, 2003).

 

Bottom line: there are a number of natural supplements that can help with a wide variety of issues, including joint pain and inflammation. These are only a few! I would recommend asking your doctor and trying some of these solutions first– if that doesn’t work for you, then maybe move on to prescribed pharmaceuticals. Sometimes, natural is the way to go– it can be safer, and more beneficial.

 

References:
Aggarwal BBKumar AAggarwal MSShishodia S. (2004). Curcumin derived from turmeric (curcuma longa): a spice for all seasons. In: BagchiDPreusHG, editors. Phytopharmaceuticals in cancer chemopreventionBoca Raton (FL): CRC Press. p. 34987.
Calder, P. C. (2013). Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and inflammatory processes: nutrition or pharmacology. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 75(3), 645-662.
Funk, J. L., Frye, J. B., Oyarzo, J. N., Kuscuoglu, N., Wilson, J., McCaffrey, G., Stafford, G., Chen, G., Lantz, R. C., Jolad, S. D., Sólyom, A. M., Kiela, P. R. & Timmermann, B. N. (2006). Efficacy and mechanism of action of turmeric supplements in the treatment of experimental arthritis. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 54: 3452–3464. doi:10.1002/art.22180
Henrotin, Y. A., Marty, M., & Mobasheri, A. (2014). What is the current status of chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis? Maturitas, 78(3), 184-187.
Kimmatkar, N., Thawani, V., Hingorani, L., & Khiyani, R. (2003). Efficacy and tolerability of Boswellia serrata extract in treatment of osteoarthritis of knee – A randomized double blind placebo controlled trial. Phytomedicine, 10(1), 3-7.
Maroon, J. C., & Bost, J. W. (2005). ω-3 Fatty acids (fish oil) as an anti-inflammatory: an alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for discogenic pain. Surgical Neurology, 65(4), 326-331.
NIH (2008). Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial Primary Study.
Rosenbaum, C. C., O’Mathuna, D. P., Chavez, M., Shields, K., (2010). Antioxidants and antiinflammatory dietary supplements for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 16(2), 32-40.
Roy, S., Khanna, S., Shah, H., Rink, C., Phillips, C., Preuss, H., … , & Sen, C. K. (2005). Human Genome Screen to Identify the Genetic Basis of the Anti-inflammatory Effects of Boswellia in Microvascular Endothelial Cells. DNA and Cell Biology, 24(4): 244-255
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