Whether you’re dealing with occasional aches or stiffness or a chronic condition like osteoarthritis, you might be wondering whether a supplement could soothe your painful joints — or even stop the pain from getting worse.
There’s no one supplement that’s been proven to deliver joint pain relief for everyone, but research-backed options abound that could be helpful. And most are considered safe as long as you get the green light from your doctor and take steps to find a reputable supplement.
What’s worth trying? Here’s a look at 15 of the best joint health supplements, the ways they might be helpful, and how you can ensure that the product you pick is safe and legit.
Since it’s a key component in cartilage (the tissue that provides cushioning around your joints), it might sound sensible that supplementing with glucosamine could help ease joint pain. (FYI, the supplements are derived from shells or made in a lab, not made from human cartilage!)
And indeed, it could be helpful. Some research has shown that taking a daily glucosamine sulfate supplement could improve osteoarthritis-related joint pain and slow the progress of the condition.
Another component of cartilage, chondroitin has also been shown to reduce joint pain and ease stiffness in a number of studies. In fact, participants in a 2015 study found that their knee pain improved by as much as 20 percent.
One thing to keep in mind: A lot of people think glucosamine and chondroitin supplements go together like PB&J. But taking both at the same time won’t for sure improve your joint pain — and some research suggests it could actually make your pain worse. Talk to your doc before combining them.
Omega-3 fatty acids are powerful anti-inflammatories, which potentially makes them a potent remedy for joint pain.
In fact, a 2016 review of the evidence found that regular supplementation significantly reduced joint discomfort and stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis — so much so that they were able to stop taking their pain meds.
GLA contains omega-6 fatty acids, which can also help fight the inflammation that causes joint discomfort.
How effective is it for easing soreness and stiffness? According to a 2017 review, people with rheumatoid arthritis who consumed GLA daily for 6 months reported a significant decrease in joint pain and swelling. And a 2014 study found that a combination of GLA and fish oil went a long way toward helping people take fewer pain meds.
MSM contains sulfur, which your body uses to build healthy bones and joints and to produce anti-inflammatory compounds. Some research suggests MSM could be effective in reducing arthritis-related joint pain and inflammation.
One thing to keep in mind: Experts don’t know much about the long-term safety of MSM. Short-term studies have found that it may cause stomachaches, diarrhea, and headaches.
This spicy root contains the anti-inflammatory compound gingerol, which has pain-relieving properties that could be as strong as those of OTC meds like ibuprofen.
An important caveat: Studies looking at ginger’s ability to ease joint pain have relied on high doses of specialized ginger extracts. So you might not get the same benefits by, say, adding a knob of ginger to your cooking.
Capsaicin — the compound that gives spicy peppers their heat — reduces the release of signals that transmit pain, which has been shown in some studies to temporarily ease chronic pain.
Capsaicin is available in creams, patches, and gels that you can apply directly to your skin. Its effects last only a couple of hours, so to reap the biggest benefits, you’ll want to apply it three or four times a day.
A compound found naturally in your body, SAMe is involved in making and regulating hormones and maintaining cell membranes. Some studies show it eases arthritis pain and improves function about as well as NSAIDs but has fewer side effects.
SAMe isn’t perfect, though. It can cause side effects like nausea, insomnia, and dizziness. It can also interact with meds that increase your body’s levels of serotonin, so you shouldn’t take SAMe if you’re on antidepressants or antipsychotics.
Devil’s claw is an herbal supplement derived from a flowering plant that boasts anti-inflammatory properties.
A few small studies have shown that Devil’s claw supplements may reduce osteoarthritis pain as well as some conventional meds do, especially when paired with other natural inflammation fighters like turmeric. (More on that in a few.)
Boswellia serrata is an Indian plant that produces frankincense, but it also contains compounds that could play a role in fighting joint inflammation and pain.
Plus, research suggests it could prevent cartilage loss, which could help slow the progression of joint conditions like arthritis.
As their name implies, ASUs are vegetable extracts taken from the avocado and soybean plants.
Research suggests they can reduce pain, block inflammation, stop cells in joints from breaking down, and even encourage the growth of healthy joint tissue. Those effects could all play a role in slowing the progression of arthritis and easing its symptoms.
This bright orange root contains curcumin, a chemical compound known for its ability to reduce joint pain by tamping down inflammation. And indeed, taking turmeric supplements has been shown to improve knee pain and function in the long term.
As for whether you’ll reap the same benefits from a golden milk latte, no one knows for sure. But turmeric supplements contain higher doses of curcumin, so if you’re dealing with serious joint pain, you’ll probably make more progress with a pill.
Research suggests regular tamarind seed extract supplementation might help ease joint pain, thanks to the extract’s anti-inflammatory and anti-stress properties.
The results are even more promising if you combine it with curcumin. In people without arthritis, the combo has been found to deliver substantial relief from knee pain after exercise.
Working as both an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory, vitamin E could fight joint pain caused by osteoarthritis and may slow the disease’s progress.
People with knee osteoarthritis have reaped benefits from taking vitamin E supplements, but talk with your doctor before trying it and resist the urge to take megadoses. Vitamin E can affect certain health conditions, and high doses can cause side effects like nausea, diarrhea, weakness, headaches, and blurry vision.
It’s a potent source of polyphenols like EGCG, which are known for their anti-inflammatory properties.
While there hasn’t been much research on green tea specifically as a treatment for arthritis pain, some studies suggest the grassy sipper could be helpful in treating joint issues.
Joint pain supplements, like all vitamins and supplements, aren’t tightly regulated by the FDA. That means it’s up to you to do your research and choose a reputable product.
Start by looking for a supplement that’s been verified by a reputable third-party certifier like United States Pharamcopeia, NSF International, or Consumer Lab. You can trust that products bearing these verifications are high quality and generally free of harmful substances.
Once you’ve chosen a verified supplement, run it by your doctor before taking it. Your doc can help you see how the supplement might factor into your overall health picture and figure out if it’s the best option for you.