The joints of our body are under constant stress. They bear our weight and allow movements during physical activities such as walking, running, sitting, turning our head, or even pointing at something. We are constantly using our joints and they weaken as we age. Joint diseases are more common as we become older. It is thought by both scientists and patients that taking appropriate supplements can help joints stay healthy by providing the appropriate nutrients to support metabolism.
While this is likely to be true, there are many supplements that have been suggested to be helpful for people suffering from pain.
Glucosamine is very commonly promoted as a way to promote healthy joints. As a precursor for glycosaminoglycans (a key component of joint cartilage), it was hoped that supplemental glucosamine could be beneficial to joint cartilage. With well over a decade of use, there are very many companies marketing their own brands, each trying to differentiate their products by emphasizing special aspects of their formulations.
Some companies claim that glucosamine sulphate work better than glucosamine hydrochloride, while others highlight that glucosamine derived from shells can be dangerous for people allergic to shellfish. Companies who market trans-dermal formulations applied to the skin understandably suggest direct application as being more effective. Others emphasize the importance and strength of their dosage at 1500mg per day (basically only 1.5grams) as being more effective.
While some patients may report temporary improvements with glucosamine supplements, clinical studies have generally not shown definite benefit from glucosamine. The UK National Institute of Health and Care Excellence(2015) currently lists glucosamine as one of the treatments NOT recommended for Osteoarthritis.
Despite this, glucosamine remains a very popular joint supplement among people with joint problems in part due to commercial marketing, as well as the tradition of use by patients and doctors. Although glucosamine may not be very effective, it is generally harmless so long as only formulations from reputable companies are used. Even if benefits are due to the placebo effect, there is generally no major harm done. It would however not be a good idea for a person to repeatedly waste time and money switching between multiple brands of glucosamine when one formulation has proven not to be useful.
MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is a structural component of the cartilage and is often sold as part of a glucosamine joint supplement. Some scientists have suggested that MSM has anti-inflammatory actions. It has also been proposed that MSM participates in the formation of connective tissue, collagen biosynthesis, skin elasticity, strengthening of muscles and promotes the healing of wounds. While current scientific studies do not yet clearly support these effects, animal studies have so far shown MSM to have very low toxicity when taken orally. Taking MSM orally is thought to be “possibly safe” if used for 3 months or less.
Chondroitin Sulfate is a mucopolysaccharide, a chain of alternating sugars. It is an important building block of joint cartilage and one of the most commonly used joint supplements.
Chondroitin sulphate is a generally safe dietary supplement without significant reports of side effects. In 2012, The University of Maryland School of Medicine did a review of published MEDLINE data collected from Jan 1996 through Aug 2012 done. This indicated that “clinical trials have reported a beneficial effect of chondroitin sulfate on pain and function.” and “the results in knee osteoarthritis demonstrate a small but significant reduction in the rate of decline in joint space width.”
Fish oil, as the name suggests is the oily liquid obtained from fish. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (EHA) which have a wide range of health benefits.
Many of the positive effects of fish oils on human health is due to its activity against inflammation. In addition to being widely use for heart, eye and mental health, some studies have suggested it to be helpful for the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
However a review paper published in The american Journal of Orthopaedics in 2015 concluded that “there appears to be insufficient clinical evidence to justify use of fish oils in the treatment or prevention of OA.”
Ginger is a root with a very aromatic and rich taste. In addition to being very widely used in cooking, many people consider it a traditional remedy for many conditions.
Ginger has strong anti-inflammatory properties. While acute (short term) inflammation in our body is required for healing from injuries, chronic inflammation can be harmful. Ginger reduces the harmful effects of inflammation on the body.
In a study conducted in University of Miami on patients with osteoarthritis patients who took ginger experienced more pain relief and better joint function than the those given a placebo.
Ginger based preparations are widely applied in diseases of the digestive system and respiratory system.
It strengthens the immune system,relieves intestinal cramps, and helps with nausea and vomiting in patients of motion sickness.
Ginger extracts have been used to treat minor wounds, inflammation of the skin and sore throat. Ginger tea is also commonly used for colds.
The antioxidant properties of the ginger is also extensively studied as a way to combat free radicals and tumor growth.