Ask the Wellness Educator
Questioning Joint Pain
This spring I have vowed to exercise more and get in shape for summer activities with my family. But I realize that pain in my knee has been holding me back and making me reluctant to even go for a walk. What supplements are the most effective for alleviating pain and possibly preventing more joint degeneration as I get older?
~C.P., New York
Dr. Jen's Answer:
Arthritis and chronic joint symptoms are some of the most common complaints in the US, affecting about one of every three adults. There are two forms of arthritis: Osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, is the more common of the two forms and may be caused by overuse of the joint, or by other predisposing factors such as trauma, congenital abnormalities, crystal deposition (such as in gout), or other inflammatory diseases.
Fortunately, there is a long list of effective supplements to choose from in the category of joint health. Omega-3 fatty acids are the foundation for decreasing inflammation associated with joint pain, and are therefore at the top of my list. Fish, krill, sardines, algae, flax, and hemp oil are good choices that offer omega-3 fatty acids; be sure to take in adequate dosages, which vary by the type of oil.
Glucosamine is another foundation for joint health, as it helps in the regeneration of cartilage. Numerous studies using 500 mg of glucosamine sulfate three times a day have shown significant improvement in relieving symptoms of OA, most, even better than nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and with fewer side effects. Glucosamine should be used for at least two months to truly determine if this supplement will be beneficial.
Boswellia is an Ayurvedic herb that has been studied for its anti-inflammatory properties. It has been shown to block some key inflammatory compounds produced by the body, to help improve joint pain, respiratory conditions, gastrointestinal inflammation, and other conditions related to inflammation. In arthritis-related research, it is recommended to take at least 450 mg daily, and up to 1,200 mg can be taken quite safely.
There are many other options for joint pain that aren't covered in this response, but I generally recommend to give most joint products a few weeks to a month to determine if they are effective for you. Add in one new product at a time to measure its effectiveness, and if it isn't the right one for you after the first bottle, then try something else.