Dr. Spencer Nadolsky is a practicing medical physician. He is based in Suffolk, Virginia.
Joint pain can be a common affliction for serious gym-goers because intensive training over a long time frame can place incredible stress on the tendons that connect your muscles to your bones, and ligaments which connect bone to bone.
It is no longer recommended to rest and immobilise injured joints because this inactivity can result in stiffness, decreased range of motion and increased pain. Instead, practice gentle range-of-motion exercises to keep the joint mobile. And try to limit your use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to get through the pain because chronic use of these pills can damage intestinal lining.
If you’ve been suffering from joint pain for several weeks or more then go see your doctor. Although fairly uncommon, pain in a joint can sometimes be associated with serious medical conditions, including some cancers and lupus erythematosus, a collection of autoimmune diseases in which the immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissues.
The smart way to supplement
Supplementation is not a primary treatment for injuries, and should only be used to reduce pain associated with injury. Supplementing to alleviate pain in order to continue exercising instead of tending to an injury will greatly increase the risk of and severity of future injuries.
Joint pain can be caused by many different factors so there is not one single supplement that can reliably provide a complete solution to the problem. However, there are many supplements that have been scientifically proven to combat some of the more common reasons for sore and immobile joints. Here they are.
This amino sugar is the most researched joint health supplement for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis
Supplementing with glucosamine sulfate – not to be confused with glucosamine hydrochloride – has been shown to be comparable to taking acetaminophen, a pharmaceutical drug for treating knee pain caused by osteoarthritis.
How to take it: Supplement with 500mg of glucosamine sulfate, three times a day with a meal, for a total daily dose of 1,500mg. Unfortunately, glucosamine doesn’t work for everyone, and some people simply do not respond to supplementation. So if you do take it but it has no effect on joint point then discontinue. It won’t do any damage to your body but will do to your wallet.
This is a component of Curcuma longa, or turmeric, a plant of the ginger family native in southeast India. It is claimed to be an anti-inflammatory agent
Curcumin can inhibit the cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes, which reduces inflammation in the body and acts similarly to NSAIDs. Curcumin, when supplemented by people with knee osteoarthritis, has been shown to successfully treat pain and improve mobility. Curcumin appears to be as powerful as other supplements and pharmaceuticals used to relieve joint pain caused by knee osteoarthritis. Though it is a popular supplement among athletes, there is no evidence to support curcumin’s effects when supplemented by people without knee osteoarthritis.
How to take it: There are several ways to supplement curcumin. The molecule itself is poorly absorbed, but there are many different ways to increase its absorption. The two most common and tested methods include phytosomes and pairing curcumin with black pepper extract. To supplement curcumin using a phytosome, take 200mg of a curcumin phytosome, twice a day, with meals. If joint pain persists increase the dose to up to 500mg, twice a day for a total daily dose of 1,000mg. To supplement curcumin alongside black pepper, take 500mg of curcumin with 20mg of piperine (a compound in black pepper), three times a day, with meals.
3 Boswellia serrata
This Indian oleoresin is often used to alleviate joint pain, especially that associated with osteoarthritis, although more evidence is needed before it can be recommended for sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis
Supplementation of Boswellia serrata has been found to be as effective as some pharmaceuticals in terms of reducing pain and improving knee flexibility.
Traditional Indian medicine uses Boswellia serrata alongside Curcuma longa, the plant source for curcumin. Further research is needed to determine whether these two supplements actually have have synergistic properties when taken together, due to their different mechanisms of action.
How to take it: To supplement Boswellia serrata, take 1,800mg of crude oleoresin, three times a day, for a total daily dose of 5,400mg.
4 Fish oil
Fish oil is a popular health supplement that can influence inflammation in the body. Fish oil is primarily made up of two omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
Fish oil supplementation has been successfully used to alleviate joint pain not associated with a disease such as osteoarthritis or rheumatism and so is effective for treating work- and exercise-related joint pain. Though preliminary studies on fish oil and athletes didn’t have very promising results, it turned out that much higher dosages of fish oil (more than 2,000 mg) could relieve joint pain in athletes. This is a much higher dosage than is standard for fish oil.
How to take it: Fish oil should be taken with a meal, and can be divided into multiple doses throughout the day, with a total daily target of between 2,000mg and 2,500mg. People with diets high in fatty fish do not need to supplement as much fish oil as described above.
This substance is a chain of sugars containing nitrogen, known as a glycosaminoglycan. It is a component of cartilage, and used as an oral supplement to support joint health
Chondroitin, in the form of chondroitin sulfate, is commonly supplemented alongside glucosamine for convenience but more research is needed to determine whether these two substances are synergistic when supplemented together. Chondroitin is most studied in the context of alleviating knee osteoarthritis. Supplementing chondroitin can reduce pain and improve mobility, and may also reduce water retention in inflamed joints. However, it may have an anti-coagulant effect, so people on blood-thinning medication should be very cautious when supplementing chondroitin.
How to take it: To supplement chondroitin, take 200mg to 400mg of chondroitin sulfate, three times a day for a total daily dose of 600mg to 1,200 mg. Higher doses tend to be more effective at relieving joint pain.
6 Vitamin C
Vitamin C is vital for collagen formation, so a vitamin C deficiency can be detrimental for joint health
Although it does not play a major role in most joint disorders, it is effective at preventing complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), which is a very painful chronic joint condition. CRPS is characterised by swollen joints and changes in skin and hair quality. It can be caused by orthopedic surgery or joint injury. The only known preventative measure is vitamin C supplementation.
How to take it: Take 500mg, once a day, ideally in the morning.