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Supplements for Knee Arthritis
Supplements for Knee Arthritis

Are there specific supplements that have been shown to relieve joint pain, stiffness, and weakness?

There are many supplements that have some variable data that show that they relieve joint pain. Some of the more common supplements are things such as:

  • Glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate
    • Glucosamine is a natural compound normally found in the cartilage.
      • Glucosamine can increase glaucoma risk so it should be avoided in those with a family history of glaucoma, people ages 60 or older, and those who have diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure.
  • Turmeric

    Turmeric is a spice that has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as a result, decreasing inflammation and tissue damage.

  • Fish oil

    Fish oil is a dietary supplement that contains omega-3 fatty acids, an “essential” fatty acid. These also have anti-inflammatory properties as well as supporting cartilage health.

  • Fisetin

    A naturally occurring compound found in strawberries, apples, grape, onions, and cucumbers. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties like turmeric.

  • Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)

    A sulfuric compound that is natural present in fruits, vegetables, grains, animals and humans. Sulfur helps your body make connective tissue.

  • Boswellia

    Also called Indian frankincense, this is a plant extract used in Africa and Asia for centuries. Some research has shown that it helps with pain, improve movement in joints, and slow down cartilage loss. It has anti-inflammatory properties which helps with arthritis pain.

Can supplements be used along with medication to relieve joint pain?

Supplements can definitely be used to help with joint pain. The benefits of supplements are that they are very safe and typically over the counter.

Are there any downsides or risks associated with using supplements to the joint pain?

There are no major risks with supplements. Some of them can thin the blood so they have to be discontinued prior to surgery.

The downsides to supplements are:

  • There is limited scientific evidence with supplements. Supplements rigorous scientific studies supporting their effectiveness. Some of the supplements have some positive results overall is either mixed or inconclusive.
  • There is a lack of regulation and quality control with supplements
  • Some supplements can be very expensive and this cost may not be justified if there is limited benefit.

The risks to supplements are:

  • Supplements can interact with prescription medications and can therefore alter the efficacy of the prescription medications. One risk is that some supplements can make the blood thinner and therefore they need to be discontinued prior to surgery.
  • The exact dosing is unknown so for them to be effective, you may have to increase dosing and this would increase any of its potential risks.

What options might someone discuss with their primary care provider to help relieve joint pain?

Most primary care providers are familiar with the main non-operative treatment options of joint pain like nsaids, therapy, cortisone injections and weight loss.

Is there other information you feel is important to share on this topic?

The evidence on supplements is either mixed or the research is very limited. However, there is definitely some evidence to show that they beneficial effects. If a patient is not interested in surgery or is not a surgical candidate, and they have exhausted the other common treatment options like nsaids, therapy, cortisone or visco injections, then supplements are an option to try. Overall, they are relatively safe and may work in some patients.

By Dr. Eddie El-Yussif

Dr. Eddie El-Yussif is a Board-Certified Fellowship-Trained Orthopedic Surgeon and Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons specializing in Knee Surgery at Henry Ford Health, serving the greater Detroit area.