If you want know which joint pain supplements work and which don’t (and why), then you want to read this article.
- Joint pain supplements are used by everyone from athletes to couch potatoes and kids to the elderly.
- While there are a few ways they can help joint pain, the most effective ones tend to be anti-inflammatory like over-the-counter NSAIDs.
- There are many that either have no evidence of working, or have been proven not to, yet are still commonly sold based on nothing more than word of mouth reports.
Hey there, youths!
Do you remember the first time you worked a retail job and had to stand for eight hours a day? The first time you did a full body workout? First day at a new manual labor job?
Remember that oh so wonderful feeling of every joint in your body suddenly becoming rusty?
The cacophony of dull pain and impaired mobility that causes people to revert to speaking in caveman moans? The sad irony that in order for the joints to not hurt you need to move them more but it hurts to move them?
Well, have no fear. Have you tried aging? It’s a revolutionary new technology that allows you to suffer this each and every day so you eventually just get used to it and ignore your own suffering.
Or if that’s not up your alley, have you tried curing age-related joint disorders?
Oh wait, you can’t do that? Just delay and manage the inevitable? Oh fine . . .
I hear supplements are decent for that!
And you probably have, too.
In fact, just about everyone has, as joint supplements have been best sellers for years now, and they show no sign of going away.
How good are these supplements, though?
Well, the truth is that most of them flat out don’t work or have never been proven to work. There are safe, natural compounds that can help reduce joint pain, though, including some that you probably haven’t heard of.
In this article, you’re going to learn why people take joint pain supplements, how joint pain supplements work, and the three best and worst joint pain supplements available.
Let’s dig in.
Why Do People Take Joint Pain Supplements?
Joint pain supplements and immune boosters are the two most popular “genres” of supplements by far when we look at sales. They dominate the market and sell well.
This is because, well, it’s joint pain. If you have it, you wake up in the morning hurting, you go to lunch hurting, and you go to bed hurting. Chronic pain is infuriating and anything that can help is wonderful.
But with the consumer mindset of, “Anything that works is greatly appreciated,” comes the seller mindset of, “Hey look Boss, these people will buy anything we give them!”
In other words, desperation breed gullibility.
This is why there’s a lot of stuff on the market that either doesn’t work, works unreliably, and actually a lot of stuff that does work.
But before we go into what works, how does something even “work” for something as hard to pin down as joint pain? Do people even really know what causes it in the first place?
Well, it’s more about maintenance.
How Do Joint Pain Supplements Work?
There are a few different ways that supplements can help you maintain healthy joints, mostly just by reducing pain and increasing mobility.
They are . . .
- Reducing inflammation
- Reducing pain
- Repairing tissue damage
- Improving blood flow
Reducing inflammation is the most popular, and most effective, way to deal with joint pain. This is simply because all the stuff we see as “bad” when it comes to our joints such as pain and reduced mobility is because of abnormally high inflammation.
Get the inflammation in check and all the bad stuff it does goes away, or is made less severe. Not only can you reduce the rate of developing arthritis by keeping inflammation in check but pain is reduced and mobility improved.
Some supplements work this way instead—directly reducing pain without affecting inflammation in the body, which is still very helpful.
After all, the only reason pain sucks is because we can feel it. Plus, there are many athletes who don’t want to interfere with inflammation all that much since it’s tied to muscle repair. Taking something that is minimally anti-inflammatory yet reduces pain is ideal here.
Repairing Tissue Damage
This is the golden goose of joint health and would underlie anything that could “cure” arthritis and chronic joint pain. At this moment in time arthritis, both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid, can’t be cured and instead must be managed each and every day.
If there’s something that can reliably, potently, and safely repair joint tissue then it could actually cure joint pain at the source instead of just managing the symptoms. However, all options right now are either understudied, unreliable, or minimally effective.
Improving Blood Flow
Blood flow pertains to joint health mostly from a pain standpoint, sitting too long in one position may cause some pooling of the blood and exacerbate pain whereas walking and being active reduces joint pain.
Some supplements have been introduced for targeting blood flow, not to cure joint pain or reduce inflammation, but more so just to manage joint pain if you can’t avoid sitting for long periods of time.
With that out of the way, let’s look at the best and worst supplements for going after these four goals.
The 3 Best Joint Pain Supplements
There are many, many supplements and pharmaceutical options when it comes to supporting the joints. When it comes to research there is quite a lot on pain and mobility of the joints and, truth be told, there’s actually a top six supplements or so that are equally good.
For the purpose of this article we’re focusing on the three of them that, beyond just working, seem to either have unique properties or work well together.
Best Joint Pain Supplement #1
Curcumin is the primary compound found in turmeric, the spice most well known for its role in curry. These days it’s become one of the more popular joint pain supplements and for good reason—it seems to work well.
Studies on people with osteoarthritis show that it can reduce feelings of pain and improve mobility. Curcumin phytosomes (which increase absorption by “carrying” the curcumin across the intestines) are the most well tested, and curcumin powder has also been tested to some degree.
It also reduces muscle damage during exercise in subjects without osteoarthritis (thought to be relevant in reducing delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS) related to improving the amount of antioxidants in your body.
So even if most studies are in osteoarthritic subjects it’s worth looking into if you’re an athlete just looking for something to help you with your workouts.
Curcumin works by reducing the production of two enzymes, COX2 and LOXs, which have vital roles in turning anti-inflammatory signalling molecules into pro-inflammatory ones.
We need these enzymes to be able to work to a degree but, all too commonly, in instances of high inflammation they become too active and need to be suppressed.
The gold standard for suppressing this process would be non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen, but they tend to target just the COX enzymes (COX1 and COX2).
It’s thought that by targeting the LOX enzymes you can mitigate some of the side-effects seen with NSAIDs like ulceration and curcumin, being a dual inhibitor, has been noted to have comparatively less gastrointestinal side-effects compared to NSAIDs potentially due to this.
When it comes to potency, curcumin is pretty much on par with some over the counter NSAIDs like ibuprofen.
Curcumin simply reduces the activity of some enzymes that would otherwise promote excess inflammation. It does this reliably and it does it well, clean and simple.
This is why I included curcumin in the formulation for our joint health supplement, FORTIFY.
FORTIFY is a natural joint supplement that helps keep your joints healthy, functional, and pain-free by reducing joint inflammation and preventing cartilage loss.
Its ingredients are scientifically proven to alleviate joint pain, inflammation, and swelling, and to help keep your cartilage healthy, strong, and intact.
So, if you want healthy, functional, and pain-free joints that can withstand the demands of your active lifestyle, then you want to try FORTIFY today.
Best Joint Pain Supplement #2
Boswellia serrata, or “boswellia” for short, is the herbal name for Indian frankincense. It’s been investigated for pain reducing properties as well as alleviating mobility issues with joints. It contains numerous compounds called boswellic acids with the major one, AKBA, being researched the most.
To put it simply, studies conducted with boswellia and a high AKBA content have shown fast-acting and effective pain relief associated with osteoarthritis. It appears to be comparable to celecoxib (an NSAID) with at least one study suggesting that the combination of boswellia and curcumin is more effective.
Historically, boswellia has been used not just for medicine but also added to wine to “benumb the senses” of prisoners about to be executed. Firstly, don’t mix supplements with alcohol, and secondly this “tranquilizing effect” may be related to how boswellia can increase the pain threshold and pain tolerance in otherwise healthy people.
It’s also been tested in conjunction with curcumin in masters athletes, showing good antioxidant effects during exercise (the study, oddly, didn’t look into joint function). Anti-inflammatory, pain reduction, and antioxidant effects—nice trifecta.
Boswellia works mostly through suppressing the LOX enzymes mentioned in the curcumin section. However, rather than just being “another thing it does” boswellia is much more potent on these enzymes, specifically 5-LOX, and can also inhibit nF-kB, a master regulator of inflammation.
It’s commonly used alongside curcumin since both are potent yet both work in different manners, so they don’t get in each other’s way.
Boswellia serrata, similar to curcumin, works by reducing the activity of enzymes that create inflammatory signalling molecules but works on a different, complementary, set of enzymes. These two herbs have been tested together in a few studies.
This is why I included a clinically effective dose of Boswellia serrata in our joint health supplement, FORTIFY.
Best Joint Pain Supplement #3
Undenatured Type II Collagen
Undenatured collagen type II (UC-II henceforth) is a specific peptide found in collagen, and may also be found in hydrolyzed collagen supplements, which has beneficial effects on joint health in a matter that greatly differs from the previous two mentioned.
It benefits rheumatoid arthritis.
The vast majority of studies on the topic of joint health focus on osteoarthritis, specifically of the knee and (less frequently) the lower back. There are many proven ways to target osteoarthritis yet fewer to deal with rheumatoid arthritis which involves your immune system backfiring on your own joints.
The studies conducted on UC-II and arthritis have all found benefits, and it may also help with osteoarthritis (not all studies agree on that one), and seems to help more classic anti-inflammatories like acetaminophen work better.
It may also reduce joint pain in otherwise healthy individuals who report joint pain (not necessarily exercise-induced pain, just passive pain that isn’t related to arthritis).
UC-II doesn’t work by suppressing the COX or LOX enzymes, though. It’s mechanism is drastically different actually. It trains your immune cells.
Specifically, some joint pain is thought to be linked to a certain degree of autoimmunity, where your immune cells think your own tissue is a problem and promotes inflammation in that area. If they think the collagen in your joints is a threat it will promote inflammation in your joints.
By orally consuming UC-II, you train your T cells (the cop cars of the immune system that call in backup from inflammation) to produce more of an anti-inflammatory signaling molecule (IL-10) relative than the pro-inflammatory one (IL-17).
It’s the change seen in those two inflammatory molecules (IL-10 and IL-17), and the fact that the T cells are now better suited for the long-term to maintain this balance, that underlies the benefits of UC-II supplementation.
It also works in the gut, in clusters of immune cells called Peyer’s patches, so absorption is not an issue. You don’t need to absorb something from the gut if it works there.
UC-II is a small peptide that works by training the immune cells in your gut to alter how they respond to antigens, causing a long-term shift from pro-inflammation to anti-inflammation. Among supplements it’s one of the few that can help with rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
This is why I included a clinically effective dose of UC-ll collagen in our joint health supplement, FORTIFY.
Grape Seed Extract
At this point you may be wondering; “Kurtis, you’re supposed to be talking about the stuff that works and your previous Best 3/Worst 3 articles were fair and balanced. This one just looks like a damn advert for FORTIFY, what gives?”
Well, first of all, it kinda is?
More importantly, many times practical stuff gets in the way of making supplements. ATLAS would have berberine if it didn’t taste like Satan’s nutsack (if we ever use berberine it will be in pills), ASCEND would have pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) if it wouldn’t have jacked up the price horrendously, that sort of thing.
In making FORTIFY, the stars just kinda aligned and we got the best stuff and put it in there, surprisingly, at a reasonable price. There’s also a bit of black pepper extract in there to help curcumin absorption (we might shift to phytosomes in the future if it becomes financially feasible) but there’s one other thing . . .
Grape seed extract, which seems to make its way into a bunch of our supplements, is also in FORTIFY, but . . . why?
Well, it kinda works?
Grape seed extract is basically discount pycnogenol (maritime pine bark extract) and pycnogenol seems to improve mobility in the joints at low doses (100 to 150 milligrams) related to improving blood flow.
These two supplements share a lot of the same bioactives (proanthocyanidins) and studies with grape seed extract confirm improvements in blood flow, but rather than many other blood flow enhancing agents we use (L-citrulline for example) grape seed extract is both a good antioxidant and reduces leg swelling (which is common among individuals with impaired mobility).
While using pycnogenol can be pretty expensive, grape seed extract at 90 milligrams is so cheap it didn’t affect the price of the final product. It was a little finisher, like a cherry on top.
Grape seed extract doesn’t do anything fancy but it’s cheap and helps with blood flow in the legs. It could be quite useful to sneak into a supplement if you think sedentary people are interested in it.
This is why I included a clinically effective dose of grape seed extract in our joint health supplement, FORTIFY.
The 3 Worst Joint Pain Supplements
Well, now that the accidental advertising is out of the way and the word count is getting up there let’s quickly mock some supplements . . .
Worst Joint Pain Supplement #1
S-adenosylmethionine is the only thing in this list that actually works. You’ll see why it’s included in the “worst” category in a bit but we have to give credit where credit’s due.
1,200 milligrams of S-adenosylmethionine daily, over the course of at least one month, is well studied and seems to be comparable to many pharmaceutical options like nabumetone, celecoxib, ibuprofen, indomethacin, naproxen. It’s like they just started taking the Pokemon approach to it, gotta compare them all.
But, here’s the thing . . .
It’s bloody expensive!
I’m talking you can expect to use $80 to buy a month-long supply of 400 mg which is a third of the dose you need. At this price point, and by using 1,200 mg a day, you can expect to pay $10 a day for this single supplement.
For comparison, FORTIFY has four goodies (ignoring the black pepper in it) and it’s $30 for a month supply. Literally a tenth of the price (a dollar a day) for what can reasonably be argued to be better.
Technically speaking, S-adenosylmethionine (sAME) works and it works well. It’s just a bad choice for most people since it’s so bloody expensive to sell as a supplement and may run you upwards of $10 a day, and there are better options out there.
Worst Joint Pain Supplement #2
Type I Collagen
In stark contrast to type ll collagen, a specific peptide with evidence to train your immune system, we have type I collagen. This is the type of collagen you get when eating gelatin, buying “collagen protein,” that whole bone broth soup thing, etc.
It’s . . . it’s just protein. It’s not even good protein. It’s abnormally high in glycine and the UC-II peptide is nowhere to be seen. It doesn’t even provide good levels of BCAAs, glutamine, or sulfur-bearing proteins.
I’ve heard some anecdotes about this type of protein being good for the skin, which may be true, but everything about collagen/gelatin protein is very much in that anecdotal stage. Looking around I found literally one study with eight subjects that was also confounded with Vitamin C.
Well, at least it showed a wee bit of benefit maybe?
Regardless. Keep an eye out for the types of collagen out there. Hydrolyzed collagen, undenatured type II collagen, and UC-II are the good words to look for; glycine, gelatin, and bone broth are not.
Type I collagen is under-researched and, for all intents and purposes, does not carry the benefits of UC-II. It’s more of a glorified food product built on anecdotes than it is a supplement that’ll help reduce joint pain.
Worst Joint Pain Supplement #3
It seems that green tea is commonly recommended for easing joint pain but, like, why?
There are no human studies on using green tea, or any tea from the plant camellia sinensis, in easing joint pain.
It seems that the evidence is currently at the stage of inducing experimental arthritis in rodents to see if there is an interaction with green tea ingestion, and it seems okay, I guess. Another study comparing black and green tea in rheumatic rats and these effects are linked to general antioxidation?
The body of evidence here is a far cry from what should be commonly recommended, the closest we even have to human evidence is one cross-sectional study. Basically, older people who drink tea seemed to have better mobility. No intervention, no double blind, just a casual observation with math.
There’s no reason for green tea to be recommended for reducing joint pain. If you want to drink it then sure, go for it, but drink it for the taste and don’t think green tea supplements are proven for improving joint health and mobility.
There’s just not much information on green tea and joints beyond experiments in rats and it’s unclear why it’s even recommended in the first place.
The Bottom Line on Joint Pain Supplements
Ultimately, many supplements have been shown to be beneficial for joint health and many of them have been shown to be somewhat comparable to pharmaceutical or over-the-counter NSAIDs in potency.
The ones that work are:
- Boswellia serrata
- Undenatured type ll collagen
The ones that don’t work are:
- Type l collagen (like bone broth)
- Green tea
The main topic when it comes to joint health supplements is just getting something that’s relatively cheap, works to reduce pain and mobility, doesn’t have any negative side effects, and might even have some nice benefits on the side; like aspirin being cardioprotective.
Other than that, pretty much everything you read is smoke and mirrors.
And if you’re looking for something that fits the bill, then I suggest you try FORTIFY. It contains clinically effective doses of curcumin, Boswellia serrata, undenatured type ll collagen, and grape seed extract, along with black pepper extract to improve absorption.
That’s all you need to alleviate joint pain, inflammation, and swelling, and to help keep your cartilage healthy, strong, and intact.
So, if you want healthy, functional, and pain-free joints that can withstand the demands of your active lifestyle, then you want to try FORTIFY today.