1 in 3 Malaysians above 55 years old suffers from osteoarthritis (OA) pain. However, OA can also affect the younger adults and any joints although it usually affects the hands, knees, hips and spine. It occurs when the cartilage that cushions in between the bones at the joints gradually breaks down. The condition develops slowly and gets worse over time. Among the warning signs are stiffness, swelling, pain or cracking sounds especially at the knee joints. 

The use of natural supplements as an alternative for pain relief is becoming more mainstream. Typical over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like diclofenac  (Voltaren) and naproxen  can be effective treatments for joint pain, but long-term use can lead to peptic ulcers, kidney problems, and even heart attack or stroke.  There are many products on the market that claim to help with joint pain, but the question that most of us want answered is, ‘Are these products actually effective?’. In this article, we shall review some of the most commonly used supplements for joint pain based on recent research.


1. Glucosamine and chondroitin

When we have joint pain, more often than not, glucosamine chondroitin is always top of our mind to support our joints. However, glucosamine chondroitin is not the cure-all for osteoarthritis. Though there have been some lower level research articles that have suggested these supplements can indeed help with knee pain, the evidence is not overwhelming.  However, it has also been prescribed by many clinicians as the first line treatment of mild and moderate joint pain due to OA.


2. Collagen

The most effective forms of collagen supplements are undenatured type II collagen (UC-II) and collagen hydrolysate. UC-II is the better one as it is the most researched and cost-effective to improve the condition of OA and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Collagen hydrolysate needs a 125-250 folds higher dose to see results. UCII may help release anti-inflammatory chemicals that help protect joint tissue. The use of these types of supplements appears to be one of the more promising options available when it comes to helping reduce joint pain. 


3. Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid  (HA) is  a natural part of the fluid that helps lubricate and cushion your joints and keeps them working smoothly. When you have osteoarthritis (OA), the hyaluronic acid in the affected joint thins. The injection of HA replenishes the lining of your knees, which can provide pain relief for up to six months. Research shows that some oral forms of HA are as effective to be used alone, or an adjunct treatment to the injection to enhance the pain relief effect. However, it is important to ensure you choose the right one as many HA products in the market  are either made using bacteria fermentation which has been reported with side effects on the liver or not properly studied in humans to support its effect in the joints. This supplement is best used for patients who want to cut down their dependence on injection or have been suffering from pain for a long time.

4. Eggshell Membrane

Scientists have found that the eggshell membrane (EM) is a completely natural source of many nutrients, such as hyaluronic acid, glucosamine, chondroitin, collagen, elastin  and desmosine as well as  isodesmosine  that play a vital role in providing relief from joint pain, stiffness and connective tissue such as ligament and tendon disorders. There are studies showing that EM works beyond knee pain,  but all joints and lower back pain.  It is recommended to people who have multiple joint disorders such as neck, shoulder, wrist, lower back and knee pains. Some studies showed fast improvement as early as 5 days. 


5. Fish Oil 

Marine oils are thought to have a pain-reducing and anti-inflammatory effect due to the high levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).  The evidence for using fish oil to reduce joint pain is somewhat mixed. While the impact of fish oil on osteoarthritic pain is low, it has been shown to be moderately helpful for pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis. There has also been some evidence to suggest that the daily use of 1200-2400mg of Omega-3 fish oil over a 2-3 months period was just as effective as over-the-counter painkillers, in reducing chronic neck and back pain. Though the results are mixed, incorporating a high-quality fish oil supplement may be beneficial for reducing joint pain.

6. Boswellia

Boswellia serrata is an ancient herb. The gum resin that is extracted from this plant has been suggested to have anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, and pain-reducing properties. Research in the past 10-15 years has suggested a positive effect on osteoarthritic knee pain. This compound is often included in other joint-specific supplements, such as eggshell membrane for a better outcome.


7. Turmeric /Curcumin 

Turmeric, which is a spice often used in Indian, and Malay cuisine, contains curcumin-enriched extracts that contain anti-inflammatory properties.  Turmeric has long been used as an anti-inflammatory treatment in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. Turmeric is researched to reduce chronic inflammation in the body, a culprit of many chronic diseases ranging from arthritis, asthma, heart disease, diabetes, liver disease to cancer.  There have been overwhelming benefits for patients to take Curcumin to fight inflammation. The main drawback of this spice is low  absorption and rapid excretion leading to a low and unsustainable concentration in the body to provide optimum results.  It is therefore important to take a turmeric extract  (such as Theracurmin from Japan) with high bioavailability , high and sustainable blood concentration,as well as be supported by many double blind, randomised human clinical trials to back their claims of health benefiting. Knowing the right supplements to take could offer greater control of osteoarthritis. Click on the product to find out which product(s) is suitable for the type of joint pain that you are experiencing.  I recommend this supplement to those who suffer from co-morbidities. 


The conclusion 

Always be a smart buyer. Look out for a source that is reliable and tested.  Choose the ingredients that are clinically trialed.  “Natural” does not always mean safe.  It is important to remember that there is no such thing as a quick fix or magical cure for joint pain! There is not any supplement meant for everyone.  Everyone is unique, especially in arthritis. Choose the right one for your condition.

Click on the product above to find out more which product (s) is suitable for the type of joint pain that you are experiencing.

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