Healthy Joints for Active Lifestyles: Best Supplements for Osteoarthritis
Our world is in constant motion. Whether we take a walk, enjoy a vacation or simply grocery shop, we’re moving around much more than we realize. When joint pain strikes, though, none of these relaxing activities are as pleasant as they used to!
The market seems full of solutions, but discovering the best supplements for osteoarthritis is both challenging and time-consuming. After all, are these supplements even useful – and if they are, what’s the formula that really works?
This guide will help you choose the right supplement to finally put an end to the unpleasant symptoms caused by osteoarthritis. Before we get into details, though, let’s have a look at what causes this condition, its risk factors and what you can do starting today to live a better life tomorrow.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is a disorder that causes inflammation of one or more joints throughout the body. You can think of a joint as the link between bones that keeps them together, giving us mobility. When a joint is inflammated, it causes pain and discomfort. (1)
The symptoms of arthritis can appear suddenly or may develop over time. It is most often encountered in adults over 65 years old, but may happen to anyone.
This condition is so complex, there are over 100 known forms of arthritis – each with its own causes and treatment. However, the most commonly encountered types are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). (2)
What is osteoarthritis?
Also known as degenerative joint disease, this is the most common type of arthritis. In this case, the cartilage that protects each bone is broken down. Consequently, each motion that requires bending the affected area causes pain and discomfort.
As its very name suggests, this illness is only getting worse in time. Ultimately, the cartilage is damaged almost completely and the bones end up rubbing against each other causing even more pain.
The illness can appear in any joint of the body; however, the most commonly affected areas are the knees, hips and spine. (3)
The difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
Many people mistake osteoarthritis for rheumatoid arthritis – the second most common type of arthritis. This confusion often leads to following the wrong treatment and just making the illness worse.
RA is an autoimmune disorder. This means that the body attacks itself and it damages its own healthy joints because it sees them as a harmful virus or bacteria. During this process, the joint gets filled with fluid that causes inflammation and pain.
OA, on the other hand, is a degenerative disorder. The cartilage surrounding the joint gets damaged gradually, affecting small nerves that lead to pain. However, in this case, the body doesn’t attack itself as it does with RA.
Furthermore, OA affects only the joints in different areas of your body. RA is a systemic illness that can affect virtually every organ too. (4)
The components that keep joints healthy
What is cartilage?
The cartilage is a fine type of tissue with a texture very similar to rubber. It protects the bones and keeps them together, while supporting other tissues in the body too. Our ears, for example, are made entirely out of cartilage. (5)
The most important function of this tissue is to hold bones together and reduce friction. Cartilage surrounds and protects joints during physical activities that require running, stretching and bending.
This tissue doesn’t have a blood supply, which means that any inflammation or injury is healing much slower and harder than with other body parts.
What is synovial fluid?
The synovia, or synovial fluid, is a viscous substance that covers and protects the cartilage to reduce friction between two joints. With the consistency of egg-white, this fluid is continuously being broken down and replaced during our lifetime.
The primary role of synovia is to lubricate the cartilage surface and make movement smoother. When this layer of coating breaks down, the joint is exposed to inflammation and friction that cause further damage in the area. (6)
What is collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein of our body; it contains important amino acids that help your body grow and recover properly. You can think of this substance as the glue that keeps us together. In fact, certain collagen fibrils are stronger than steel! (7)
There are 16 known types of collagen, but types I, II and III are particularly significant for the human system. Types I and III help your skin, tendons, bones and organs function well; meanwhile, type II collagen is found in the cartilage.
Not only is this substance essential to (re-)build joint cartilage, but it’s also commonly used to make the skin look softer and younger, as well as for bone strength. (8)
What are the causes of osteoarthritis?
For many years, people mistakenly believed that joints are damaged because they’re simply used too much during our daily physical activities. Luckily for everyone, that’s only a myth. Some underlying conditions that lie behind this degenerative condition may be:
Traumatic injury. Many times, osteoarthritis can develop in time due to the injury of the cartilage. Because cartilage recovery is difficult and it’s being put under pressure every day, there may not be enough time for it to regenerate; ultimately, the joints become exposed and bones rub each other causing pain. In this case, the condition may even appear years after the initial trauma. (9)
Genes. Sometimes the body is genetically flawed and can’t produce the collagen that strengthens and protects cartilage. Though extremely rare, this abnormality can lead to OA in multiple areas of the body as early as the teenage years.
Bone deformation. If you’re born with malformed bones and/or joints, there may be excessive pressure put on a certain area, thus affecting the cartilage.
What are the risk factors of osteoarthritis?
Because the symptoms of this condition may go unnoticed for quite a while, spotting OA may be challenging. However, there are a few factors that put certian people at risk:
- Obesity – According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, overweight women are 4 times more likely to develop OA, while overweight men have 5 times more chances to get this illness. Extra pounds mean putting more pressure on joints and altering the cartilage faster. (10)
- Gender – Statistically, women are more prone to suffering from osteoarthritis and may expeirence more severe forms of the condition in the knees. (11)
- Age – The changes in both muscle and skeletal systemsover time make age a notable factor for developing OA. However, not everyone of older age necessarily has this illness and its progression rate varies from one person to another. (12)
- Certain occupations – Repeating the same movements for a long amount of time (such as heavy lifting, prolonged kneeling and squatting) was found to increase the risk of osteoarthritis in different areas of the body. In fact, coal miners, carpet fitters and farmers are legally eligible for the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit in the UK. (13)
What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?
Unfortunately, the earliest symptoms of OA are often labeled as normal simply because they don’t seem too serious. However, if you experience any of the following on a daily basis, it may be time to consider osteoarthritis:
This is the most common symptom and it may be experienced at the earliest stages of OA. Sometimes the pain may appear randomly and other times it may be caused by moving the affected area a certain way, which puts pressure on the joint. (14)
If you also feel discomfort when pressing down on that specific area or if you notice any swelling, these may also count as a sign.
This symptom is hard to spot because you may also feel stiffness in your joints after waking up or when you’ve been sitting down for too long; this doesn’t mean you’re suffering from OA. (15)
Usually, the sensation goes away after some physical movement of the affected area. However, in people with arthritis, the ache gets worse after ending that specific activity.
Your cartilage serves one person: to keep everything running smoothly. When it gets damaged, the bones are rubbing each other, which affects nerves and causes strange feelings such as joint grating, clicking or cracking.
Here are the most common clues to detect osteoarthritis in different areas of the body:
Pain in the groin area and it can even go as far as the inside of the thigh and knee;
A sensation described as ‘grating’ or ‘scraping’ during movement;
Pain and discomfort at the base of the thumbs;
Stiffness and pain in the neck and back areas;
Tenderness at the base of the big toe and swelling in toes or ankles.
Life habits that help overcome osteoarthritis
While it’s true that OA is a degenerative condition that may never go away, it doesn’t mean it’s not manageable. As it happens with any other illness, it’s all about creating a better lifestyle to help your mind and body overcome the unpleasant symptoms. (17)
Here are the main things you can do starting right now:
- Stay active
If you’re in too much pain for jogging or working out, simply taking a walk can boost mobility and improve your immune system.
- Adopt the right diet
OA symptoms are notably influenced by the foods you eat on a daily basis. The following options were proven to increase inflammation and pain: alcohol, sugar and artificial sweeteners, white bread, rice and trans fats (often found in processed foods).
Instead, you can replace those harmful options with healthier ones that promote physical healing while reducing pain: garlic, citrus fruits, broccoli, nuts and low-fat dairy products.
- Maintain a balanced weight
As the Arthritis Foundation explains, one pound of body weight means three pounds on your joints. Naturally, the bigger the number, the more pressure and friction your joints are exposed to – especially when it comes to knees and hips. (18)
What complementary therapies help with OA?
Regardless if you’re at risk for osteoarthritis or already struggling with it, the following therapies have proven benefits for this condition:
Water-based Treatment. Exercise is crucial for arthritis management, but people with OA may be in too much pain to do it. Water relieves the gravitational pressure while improving mobility and confidence. The American College of Rheumatology recommends exercising in a heated pool and increasing the duration and complexity of exercises in time.
Thermotherapy. Perhaps the simplest method on the list, thermotherapy means basically alternatively applying hot and cold compresses on the affected joint. While heat helps with joint stiffness, cold temperatures can release pain and spasms.
Massage. Thankfully, this relaxing activity is also a great way of reducing unpleasant OA symptoms. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that one hour of massage per week for eight weeks can soothe muscles and nerves around the affected joint.
Acupuncture. Although there is conflicting evidence regarding the efficiency of acupuncture for OA, many patients reported less pain and stiffness using this treatment. However, physical activity may still be a better option. (19)
What are the main supplements that support cartilage and synovial fluid?
Osteoarthritis nutritional supplements can ease the unpleasant symptoms of this illness, but also to increase mobility of the affected joints. Note that these options cannot treat the condition altogether, but they are a good way of feeling better and may even slow down the progression of OA on the long run.
Curcumin and resveratrol
In simple words, curcumin is the root of turmeric. This ingredient has been used in traditional medicine for more than a century due to its anti-inflammatory benefits. Meanwhile, resveratrol is a substance whose major positive impact on joints has only been recently discovered. (20)
Both curcumin and resveratrol are polyphenols. Studies showed that combining them for a long-term treatment can ease symptoms in different types of arthritis. (21)
Curcumin is naturally found in turmeric, while resveratrol can be found in grapes, berries, peanuts and whine.
Glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin suflate
Both of these substances are naturally found in our cartilage. Consuming them as a supplement can boost recovery in cartilage affected by osteoarthritis which, as we know, is slow and difficult.
A study published by the Aging Clinical and Experimental Research proved that taking this combination of substances for at least 12 weeks improves mobility while reducing discomfort. (22) However, most research on this topic was done in vitro and on animals, which leads to rather unconclusive results. (23)
Glucosamine is extracted from lobster and shrimp shells, while chondroitin is mostly found in animal bones/cartilage. However, these natural sources aren’t nearly as rich in substance as you’d need to notice a positive impact.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Supplements rich in omega-3s have already been recommended as a RA treatment for a while, but it’s only recently that their impact on OA has been noticed. Multiple animal studies already proved the efficiency of this substance as it can reduce symptoms and prevent the occurence of the disease in time. (24)
Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that soothe affected joints. Furthermore, they improve your heart health and lower blood pressure.
The most popular natural sources of omega-3s are salmon, oysters, sardines or flaxseeds.
Also known as frankincense, this Indian herb has been used since ancient times to relieve symptoms of pain and discomfort. Nowadays, it’s labeled as an analgesic (relieves pain) with anti-inflammatory properties. A study performed at the University of California concluded that 5-Loxin (the boswellia extract) can also reduce the degradation of cartilage in OA patients. (25)
This is among the few supplements that contain biologically active sulphur, a mineral that’s crucial for multiple physical functions to occur. MSM is used to treat a wide range of illnesses such as OA, scar tissue, gum disease, Alzheimer’s and musculoskeletal pains. (26)
The substance can decrease production of pro-inflammatory compounds like nitric oxide and prostaglandin E, thus reducing joint inflammation. Furthermore, MSM is also a powerful analgesic especially when combined with boswellia extracts, as it was found in a study published by the International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology. (27)
MSM is naturally found in cow’s milk, tomatoes, corn, tea and fruits such as whole grains, apples and raspberries. Note that processed foods contain little to no MSM at all.
Recommended dosage & timing
Curcumin: Generally, the recommended dose is of 300-400mg two times a day for the standard 95% curcumin extract. Also, it’s advisable to avoid taking these supplements on an empty stomach. (28)
Glucosamine & Chondroitin: Glucosamine sulfate that comes as capsules, tablets or powder that can be mixed in a drink should be consumed at 1,500 mg divided in multiple doses throughout the day. As for chondoitrin sulfate, the regular dose ranges between 800-2000 mg delivered daily. (29, 30)
Omega-3s: When it comes to omega-3 fatty acids, the most commonly used supplement is fish oil. In this case, the Arhtritis Foundation recommends a daily dosage of 2,600 mg or less for products with at least 30% of the active ingredients EPA and DHA. (31)
Boswellia: The recommended daily dose for boswellia extract supplements is of 100-250mg. However, if you’re planning to use the resin itself, your dose can increase up to 2600 mg per day. (32)
MSM: According to the Arthritis Foundation, you can get anywhere between 1,000-3,000 mg of MSM daily delivered as a supplement. (33)
These are only general recommendations. Make sure to read the label of every product and follow the indications offered by the producer. If you are unsure regarding the right dosage or experience unpleasant symptoms, ask a specialist for advice.
What should the ideal supplement formula contain?
Just as it happens with any other supplement, the perfect, miraculous formula doesn’t exist yet. However, the ideal product should offer a balanced blend between the substances mentioned above: curcumin, glucosamine & chondroitin and boswellia. That’s because their efficiency regarding OA has been proven by numerous studies that also found the right dosage for a positive impact.
Deceiving advertising regarding the ingredients
Many times, manufacturers will also include other substances that may (or may not) have a positive impact on your joints, such as:
- Hyaluronic acid: This substance is naturally found in the skin and joints and it improves the quality of collagen which protects the joint from friction. While injection therapy may be helpful (though not proven so), dietary supplements contain way too little hyaluronan to have a notable impact. (34)
- Collagen: Clearly, collagen is essential to protect the joints. However, studies conducted so far show mixed results regarding the efficiency of collagen supplements for OA symptoms. So far, no studies found that collagen can repair or grow cartilage and, as ND Kimberly Sanders explains, ‘There’s not enough evidence to say that every patient with arthritis would benefit from any collagen supplement.’
None of these substances is harmful for your body. However, some manufacturers may claim that they magically heal osteoarthritis, which is nothing more than deceiving advertising. The best way to make sure you get the right formula is to look for ingredients with proven benefits and check their quantity on the label.
Take Home Conclusions
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative illness that affects joints in different areas of the body. It occurs mostly in people over 50 years old and it’s the most common type of arthritis.
The illness may sometimes be caused by genetic factors or traumatic injuries, though most of the times it occurs without an underlying condition. The most common risk factors for OA are obesity, increasing age and occupational activities that require overly repeating the same joint movement.
Osteoarthritis manifests through pain, stiffness, grating and other abnormal sensations of the affected area (most commonly the hips, knees, feet and spine). These symptoms can be relieved with the right diet and weight management along with therapies such as massage, thermotherapy and water-based treatments.The most beneficial supplements for OA are curcumin, resveratrol, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, Boswellia serrata, MSM and omega-3 fatty acids. Combining them at the proper daily dosage can relieve uncomfortable symptoms and may even slow down the progression of the disease.
Best supplements for osteoarthritis
This dietary supplement contains the essential ingredients recommended in the fight against osteoarthritis. The mix between curcumin and boswellia serrata creates a natural balance that eases inflammation of the affected area. Meanwhile, the adapted ratio of glucosamine and chondroitin meets the daily supply recommended for slowing down the OA progress and improving flexibility.
- Ingredients extracted from non-genetically modified sources
- Vegetarian-friendly supplement that’s Third Party Tested
- Mixes all the main self-treatment options with proven benefits
- A customer claimed the aftertaste of the product is unpleasant
Just as its name suggests, this supplement has three of the most powerful allies against OA symptoms: glucosamine, chondroitin and turmeric extracts. The product is meant to relieve joint pain and help you regain your usual, active lifestyle without any discomfort. Each capsule is vegetarian-friendly and can be consumed by virtually anyone (unless your doctor advises otherwise, of course).
- Free from any additives and preservatives
- Gelatin-free capsules that are easily digested anytime
- Supports joint repair in a simple, yet effective way
- The daily recommended dose is of 4 capsules, which may be inconvenient for very active people
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This healthy supplement has all it takes to create a powerful recipe against osteoarthritis. From turmeric to glucosamine, boswellia and chondroitin, the combination of ingredients is deisgned during an FDA-approved facility that works in best conditions. Just like the other products on this list, NutrAffect is also vegetarian-friendly so it fits most diets.
- Easy to swallow capsules without unpleasant aftertaste
- 100% natural ingredients processed in USA
- Gluten-free, dairy-free and free from GMO
- The recommended dosage is of 3-6 capsules per day, which may be a lot for very busy people
The formula of this supplement was designed with one purpose in mind: to help people struggling with joint and/or hip pain live their lives without any pain. Regardless of age, gender and occupation, the daily blend of glucosamine, chondroitin, boswellia and curcumin can help relieve joint discomfort on the long run.
- Contains all the ingredients proven to relieve OA symptoms
- Customers say it takes two weeks to notice positive effects<
- The producer offers a money-back guarantee
- Customers reported that the pill size is too big to swallow
If you’re looking for a simple product with a powerful formula, then this supplement is the right choice. The combination of naturally-sourced ingredients meets daily recommended nutritional values that keep unpleasant symptoms under control and reduce the progression of OA. From turmeric, MSM and boswellia to glucosamine and chondroitin, each ingredient has been carefully chosen to design the right product for anyone dreaming of a better life.
- Healthy blend of ingredients with proven efficiency
- Manufactured in the USA in an FDA-approved facility
- 100% money back guarantee
- Only 150 mg of chondroitin sulfate, which may be too little to make a difference
Each of the items listed above contains a healthy blend of ingredients with proven benefits in relieving osteoarthritis symptoms. However, our favorite product on the list is by far Arazo Nutrition Joint Support.
First of all, this supplement includes every substance known to have a positive impact on joints: glucosamine and chondroitin, MSM, as well as turmeric and boswellia extracts. More importantly than that, though, each ingredient comes in the dosage recommended by specialists, which is a huge plus.
Each component comes from non-genetically modified sources and there are no preservatives or fillers included. Considering that the daily dose is divided in three easy-to-swallow tablets, simply having one with each meal will help you maintain a healthy routine.
Osteoarthritis is a long-term disease – but it doesn’t have to be a long-term struggle. Making small life changes, trying out therapy methods that may even turn out to be fun and adopting the right diet can help you live your life to the fullest!