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Should I Take Supplements For Joint Pain?

A much talked about subject, and there are so many different products & opinions out there, so where do you even start & is there any value in them?

Several nutritional supplements have shown promise for relieving pain, stiffness and other arthritis symptoms. Glucosamine and chondroitin, omega-3 fatty acids and curcumin (turmeric) are just some of the natural products researchers have studied for joint pain/arthritis.

Let’s have a brief look at what these supplements are & what the evidence says about their effect...

Glucosamine and chondroitin

These are natural compounds found in healthy cartilage - the connective tissue that cushions joints. They protect cells called chondrocytes, which help maintain cartilage structure. In theory, these supplements have the potential to slow cartilage deterioration in the joints, and to reduce pain in the process.

Anecdotally, the jury is out on their effect – lots of people will recommend these products & find them to be hugely beneficial, but conversely, many people don’t experience any relief.

The research evidence is also inconclusive. A large National Institutes of Health study called the GAIT trial compared glucosamine and chondroitin, alone or together, with an NSAID and inactive treatment (placebo) in people with knee osteoarthritis (OA). Glucosamine improved symptoms like pain and function, but not much better than a placebo.

Polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids

These supplements block proteins and fatty acids that can turn on inflammation. Your body turns them into anti-inflammatory chemicals called resolvins that can help take away joint stiffness and tenderness. Thus they have a potentially very potent ant-inflammatory effect.

Research evidence highlights that Omega-3 supplements may help relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, but for most other conditions for which omega-3 supplements have been studied, the evidence is inconclusive or doesn’t indicate that omega-3s are beneficial.


Curcumin is the active compound in turmeric. In the body, it acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, blocking the same inflammation-promoting enzyme as the COX-2 inhibitor drug, celecoxib.

Research shows a potential positive effect in people with knee OA, plus widespread RA, swelling & stiffness. However, it is difficult for the body to absorb & the effect is highly dependent on the correct dosage.

In summary, anecdotal & research evidence is mixed on whether these supplements help with joint pain/arthritis. They are generally considered safe to try, but it is always best practice to speak to your GP, pharmacist or dietician before taking anything different. Potential effects are also highly dependent on the dosage & combination of other ingredients in the supplement.

With all things considered, certain supplements can be beneficial for the right people, but nothing beats a healthy diet & exercise for improving joint pain/stiffness from arthritis.

Call Harbourside Physiotherapy today to discuss your issue with one of our Physiotherapy team to see if Physiotherapy &/or hydrotherapy can help you…

Call Harbourside now and book into see one of our Specialist Physiotherapists!

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