Joint pain is exhausting, but it can go beyond simply dealing with the discomfort in the joints themselves. Joint pain can also cause fatigue, brain fog, and poor sleep. But with the right approach, you can lessen or avoid joint pain with single supplements. Better yet, choose formulas that combine proven ingredients to address joint health—all without dangerous side effects.
Curcumin has an unparalleled ability to fight pain and inflammation throughout the body. It has been clinically studied for pain relief, including the joint pain that can accompany osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. But, the curcumin you choose does matter. All standard extracts of curcumin are poorly absorbed by the body. Combining curcumin with turmeric essential oil containing ar-turmerone increases absorption by up to 700 percent over curcumin alone. Because of its high-absorbability factor, it’s more effective at smaller doses than some other extracts. A recent human clinical trial published in the April 2019 issue of Trials showed the benefits of a proprietary, patented curcumin with turmeric essential oil called BCM-95, or Curcugreen. This curcumin was compared to the prescription non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac (Voltaren) for use in osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee among 139 patients. Each of the participants were randomly assigned to take either 50 mg of diclofenac twice daily or 500 mg of BCM-95 curcumin three times per day for 28 days. The improvements in osteoarthritis pain and functionality were the same in both the curcumin and diclofenac groups but there were three times as many adverse effects in the drug group as compared to the curcumin group. The researchers concluded that this proprietary form of curcumin worked just as well as diclofenac but without all of the adverse side effects.
The beauty of boswellia lies in its ability to target multiple healing pathways in the body that lower inflammation and reduce pain. Among boswellia’s most valuable properties is its unique ability to target a key pathway that is a major contributor to joint pain—the 5-LOX (5-lipoxygenase) pathway. Research shows that a specific compound in boswellia called Acetyl-11-keto-B-boswellic acid, or AKBA, is one of the primary reasons it works so well to quell joint pain. But to get the most benefit from your supplement, look for a clinically studied boswellia extract that contains at least 10 percent of naturally occurring AKBA. Research shows that, combined with curcumin, boswellia relieves knee OA symptoms better than prescription drugs: 64 percent versus 29 percent. Study results found a dramatic improvement in pain relief and walking distance among those taking the boswellia-curcumin combo. Another double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial combining boswellia and curcumin also found that the botanicals were extremely effective for reducing arthritis-related joint pain and stiffness in just three months. Individuals in the herbal group also experienced an improvement in their ability to walk, climb stairs, and other “functional” scores compared to placebo. A great way to fight joint pain and inflammation is to take a supplement that contains boswellia, curcumin, and devil’s claw. It’s another noteworthy botanical with the ability to increase hyaluronic acid synthesis in chondrocytes—a critical step for joint lubrication. Adding devil’s claw to boswellia and curcumin is a synergistic dynasty of pain relief.
Type II Collagen
Type II collagen is one of many forms of protein found in cartilage. Accounting for up to 90 percent of the collagen in joints, it’s crucial for proper joint movement. While this structural protein is made naturally in our bodies, production starts to decrease starting in our 20s, pointing to the need for supplemental sources. For over two decades, researchers have investigated supplemental type II collagen in people with joint pain due to osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. While not a “quick fix,” the results are impressive. Given the necessary time to assess the effectiveness of joint-rebuilding nutrients, supplemental type II collagen has been shown to stop pain. It may also play a part in interfering with T-cells that attack existing collagen in the joints, as seen in cases of rheumatoid arthritis. In a clinical study, type II collagen was used alongside and tested against acetaminophen in two groups of volunteers with osteoarthritis. The type II collagen users had significantly less knee pain, better flexibility, and better walking scores. Given the liver-damaging possibilities of acetaminophen, it makes sense to stick with the type II collagen.
But this form of collagen is not limited to arthritis pain. A physically demanding job or an arduous workout can also leave you looking for relief. Another clinical study of healthy, active people found that type II collagen helped them exercise longer without pain, alleviated pain from exercise, and improved knee extension. Whether on its own or as a partner to other supplements aimed at relieving pain and stiffness, type II collagen makes an excellent companion to other joint supporting supplements. For example, in a six-month clinical study when type II collagen was combined with glucosamine and chondroitin, individuals with symptoms of hand osteoarthritis received more relief than those using glucosamine and chondroitin alone. Also of note: People receiving the extra boost from type II collagen improved faster and more steadily over the year with further improvements and better symptom relief.
Chondroitin sulfate is a glycosaminoglycan (often shortened to GAG) which makes up cartilage, connective tissue, bone, and skin. It helps extend the life and activity of chondrocytes (cartilage producing cells), reduces inflammation, and strengthens the load-bearing bones in the joints that sit just under the cartilage called “subchondral” bone. Often researched in a combination, certain chondroitin and glucosamine combinations are equal to the pharmaceutical drug celecoxib (also known as Celebrex) for stopping knee pain. Even chondroitin alone has been objectively shown to reduce pain sensation on MRI brain scans of patients in a clinical study. In another year-long clinical study, individuals with knee OA who took chondroitin felt less pain, preserved more cartilage, and experienced greater mobility after just three months than those taking a placebo.
Glucosamine is a polysaccharide compound naturally found in cartilage. For people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, it not only helps rebuild those cushioning, shock-absorbing structures, but relieves pain as well. Scientific research shows that when combined with chondroitin and hyaluronic acid, glucosamine decreases the cartilage-degrading enzymes responsible for gradually depleting the cushion between joints. It also inhibits specific inflammatory markers by up to 74 percent.
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is another GAG that is synthesized in the body’s cartilage-producing chondrocytes. It’s one of the building blocks of collagen and cartilage in much the same way that amino acids are the building blocks of protein. HA adds to the spacing between joints, scavenges free radicals, and is critical for joint lubrication. Clinical work with supplemental HA has been promising. In a three-month study, the supplement not only relieved muscle pain and reduced pooling of synovial fluid (the fluid that reduces friction between cartilage in joints) in the knees, it also helped regenerate muscle. It shows how important it is to add a clinically studied, reliable source of supplemental HA—either alone or in combination with other nutrients—into a joint-restoring regimen.