Feeling some stiffness or aches in your joints is far from uncommon. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 15 million Americans with arthritis experience severe joint pain and about twice that many say it’s persistent. While it won’t be a fix, you may consider adding a supplement to your diet to know you’re doing all you can to protect your health.
The most important thing you can do to take care of your bones and joints is prioritize a healthy lifestyle — like eating a well-balanced diet and regularly engaging in low-impact exercise. Also, make sure to check in regularly with your doctor if you’re experiencing pain or stiffness so they can pinpoint the source of it. But as a bonus, you can choose a supplement to complement your health — many of the best joint supplements are substances already found in your body.
Ahead, we’ll get into a handful of vitamins and joint health supplements that will help you know you’re doing the most to support your bones and joints. As is true when adding any supplement to your diet, make sure you check with your doctor first if you’re taking any medication, or if you have an underlying health condition.
Best joint supplements
Collagen is a protein your body makes — and as you age, you have less and less of it. It’s what keeps your skin tight and firm and what keeps your joints working smoothly. But as you get older, there’s less collagen in your joints, which is where joint supplements could help. Though there isn’t a lot of research on whether collagen can actually help your joints, doctors largely think that it won’t hurt either — if it makes you feel better while paired with low-impact exercises like swimming, then go for it.
Omega-3s are fatty acids that can alleviate inflammation and joint pain. Research has shown that these supplements can reduce stiffness in people with arthritis and also combat joint pain. Studies have been conducted on how omega-3s work with arthritis, and it’s been proven that this fatty acid can “prevent experimental arthritis and may decrease disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis.” Omega-3s are largely safe to take but can cause side effects like heartburn, nausea or diarrhea. If you currently take a blood thinner, speak to your doctor before taking an omega-3 because they may interact and pose health risks.
You already have glucosamine naturally occurring in your body. It’s in your cartilage and helps your joints function. A glucosamine supplement is believed to help with arthritis in that it can bring down some of the pain brought on by osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Because it’s a substance naturally found in the body, a supplement is generally considered safe. It has the potential to cause side effects like nausea and heartburn, and because it’s often made from shellfish, it should be avoided if you have an allergy. There is also a risk of interaction with blood thinners that could cause bleeding issues.
Vitamin D is known to support bone health, which is why some believe a vitamin D supplement could be useful in aiding in joint health. There is some research that suggests taking a vitamin D supplement can help with arthritis pain and inflammation, but the result doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a definitive answer. However, this supplement could help.
Vitamin D is a great resource for the body, helping you retain calcium, which also helps out your teeth! Take care when adding a vitamin D supplement to your routine, though, as high levels of this vitamin can interact with several drugs. Most notably, high levels of vitamin D can be highly problematic if you’re on Lanoxin, as it can put you at risk for hypercalcemia. Other medications mixed with a vitamin D supplement can also affect how your body processes the supplement.
You’ll often see chondroitin mentioned alongside glucosamine, as they’re similar. Chondroitin is also found in the cartilage in your body, which is why it’s believed to be beneficial in boosting joint health. Research into chondroitin has had largely inconclusive results, but it’s still accepted as a supplement that could be beneficial in aiding joint health. It’s generally viewed as a safe supplement, though, like many others, it can interact with blood thinners like Warfarin and put you at risk for bleeding.
People often turn to vitamin E to support their immune systems, as this vitamin is an antioxidant. However, there is some research on how vitamin E may slow the progression of osteoarthritis and promote the growth of new cartilage cells. However, much of this research requires further study. That being said, vitamin E is a good supplement to keep in your rotation, as it also promotes good vision and brain health. Just note that it can interact with blood thinners and put you at risk for bleeding.
Turmeric is not just a spice used in some cuisines, it’s been used in traditional medicine as a healing spice and it’s considered one of the more powerful natural ingredients you can add to your meal for a health boost. Specifically, its active ingredient or compound, curcumin, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. For these reasons, you may consider adding turmeric to your food or even taking curcumin in supplement form. But as with all supplements, it’s important not to overdo it and check in with your doctor first.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, there’s some research that suggests curcumin works as an anti-inflammatory for pain relief. But as is outlined in an article by Harvard Health (and is applicable to the benefits of most if not all supplements), more research into this relationship is needed. Also, be weary of turmeric or curcumin supplements in particular if you take anti-coagulants (blood thinners), as these supplements can cause risky side effects for certain people. As always, ask your doctor first.
Risks of supplements for joint health
As mentioned, most supplements are generally considered safe for people to take, and many of them are vitamins that your body requires. However, you should always research supplements before you start taking them, and it’s important you consult with your doctor first if you’re on prescription medication, since some supplements can interfere with the way drugs work. Many of them can interact with prescription medications, and you want to know that beforehand.
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you’ll also want to go over any supplements with your doctor before you start taking them.
Joint supplement FAQs
Do joint supplements really work?
It can be tricky to nail down a proven medical benefit for any supplement — for joint health or otherwise. Supplements aren’t meant to be used as a remedy for a medical condition, but rather as something that will supplement or complement your diet, especially if you’re deficient in a nutrient. The supplements included in this best list were chosen because some research has found a potential benefit for joint health, though whether you decide to take one will depend on the medications you’re prescribed and your individual health concerns.
Does the FDA approve dietary supplements?
No, the US Food and Drug Administration doesn’t sign off on and investigate supplements like it does medications or drugs. “[The] FDA generally does not approve dietary supplement claims or other labeling before use,” it says. However, there are manufacturing practices and marketing rules that companies that make supplements must follow.
For more information, read on about how to read a supplement label.