Best supplements for joint pain according to an expert

woman with joint pain in hand

by Bryony Firth-bernard |

From your elbow to your knee, hip, shoulders and even hands, joint pain can occur in many different areas of the body.

“There can be many causes of joint pain, frequently some form of inflammatory condition such as rheumatoid arthritis or wear and tear conditions such as osteoarthritis,” says Suzie Sawyer, clinical nutritionist for Alive! Supplements. “Viruses and issues such as leaky gut, can also create inflammation throughout the body and, therefore, joint pain.”

Of course we can reach for painkillers when this nagging aching occurs, but we know it’s not great to take these all the time. Another option however is to take supplements, but which is best out of the two?

“It depends on the root cause and severity of the pain and, in some cases, the advice from a GP,” says Suzie. “However, there is much research to suggest that in many conditions supplements can be as effective as NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). In the majority of cases though, certain supplements provide relief from pain without the side effects frequently associated with medication.”

Best supplements for joint pain

supplements and a jar

With so many supplements available, it can be hard to navigate which ones you actually need and will really make a difference to relieve your joint pain. Below are the supplements that Suzie recommends:

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is key when it comes to healthy bones.

“It’s essential to correct deficiency of vitamin D and also increase blood levels of this key nutrient,” says Suzie. “Current advice from the UK Department of Health and Social Care is to take 10 micrograms of vitamin D through the winter months. However, this is not sufficient for a large percentage of the population and in many cases, will not be enough to help with joint pain. A good daily level for supplementation is around 25 micrograms daily, even though the sun has come out.”

Fish oil

“These are highly effective in managing pain throughout the body, especially associated with the joints,” says Suzie. “The essential omega-3 fats form an integral part of cellular membrane and provide the starting point for the production of hormone-like compounds (prostaglandins) that are essential for managing the body’s inflammatory pathways.”

Devil’s claw

This supplement gets its odd name from the tiny hooks that cover its fruit and Suzie says it's particularly good for osteoarthritis.

“The herb Devil’s Claw is a traditional remedy for many joint issues and helps to manage pain, especially in cases of osteoarthritis. It’s native to South Africa and its dried roots have been successfully used in Europe since the early 1900s to treat all manner of inflammatory conditions. As with many herbs, their exact mode of action is not always fully understood, however with this herb, it would seem it’s a combination of many compounds which make it so effective.  So much so, that it is medicinally licensed as a Traditional Herbal Remedy (THR).

Boswellia

This is particularly popular for treating pain caused by arthritis.

“It contains a boswellic acid known as AKBA which seems to be a potent anti-inflammatory component,” says Suzie.”The Arthritis Foundation – www.arthritis.org – recommends 300- 400 mg daily of Boswellia.”

Probiotics

Suzie says that an unhealthy gut can also contribute to joint pain.

“Pain is the body’s way of telling us there is inflammation in the body. Whilst this is frequently down to conditions such as arthritis or digestive conditions such as Crohn's disease, inflammation can be exacerbated by an imbalance within the gut microbiome, leading to pain throughout the body. The gut is generally referred to as the ‘second brain’ such is its importance in our overall well being.  Whilst having a rainbow diet is key, taking a probiotic supplement is frequently needed to correct imbalances."

Tips for choosing supplements

two woman looking at supplements to buy

“It’s important to have vitamins and minerals in the best forms that you can," says Suzie. "For example, vitamin D3 tends to be better utilised by the body than vitamin D2. Forms of minerals are also key, for example calcium carbonate is very poorly absorbed whereas other forms are much better. Taking a multivitamin and mineral is a great way of plugging nutrient gaps and topping up and getting nutrients in the right balance. All nutrients work synergistically in the body, therefore taking them in isolation can sometimes create deficiencies in other areas.  Always choose a trusted brand that has good heritage and utilise the company’s nutritionists to ask advice about what to take if you are unsure."

Should you speak to your doctor or pharmacist before taking a supplement?

As supplements aren't regarded as 'medication', but rather part of your nutrition, Suzie says it's really down to whether your doctor or pharmacist has this knowledge.

"Generally, nutrition is not part of medical training so it’s often difficult for them to give advice unless they have their own knowledge," she says. "There are plenty of nutritionists and dieticians available to help you and also advise on any possible drug/nutrient interactions.  However, if you are taking supplements then always tell your GP or doctor what you are taking, particularly if you are about to undergo tests or surgery.”

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