Best Vitamins and Supplements for Joint Health

“Health is wealth” is a mantra with value. If you’ve been feeling a little stiff or an odd ache in your body has suddenly appeared, this could be a sign of joint pain, meaning it’s time to make impactful changes in your daily habits and prioritize a healthy lifestyle. This should include measures like regularly engaging in low-impact exercise, eating a well-balanced diet and ensuring you’re taking the right vitamins and supplements to keep your joints in tip-top condition.

“Generally, I think it’s hard to find a full-on solution for your joint pain through supplements alone,” said Dr. Navya Mysore, a primary care physician at One Medical. But save for a review of someone’s health history and any medications they’re taking that may interact with their supplement of choice, there’s also no harm in adding a supplement for joint health, Mysore said.

Ahead, we’ll get into a handful of vitamins and joint health supplements that will help you know you’re doing the most to support your bones and joints — and many of them are substances already found in your body. As is true when adding any supplement to your diet, make sure you check with your doctor first if you’re taking any prescription medication, or if you have an underlying allergy or health condition. Depending on your medication and the supplement, there could be an interaction that makes it less safe.

Best joint supplements

Three types of collagen in powder tablets and capsules on a gray background Three types of collagen in powder tablets and capsules on a gray background

Viktoriia Ponomarenko/Getty Images

Glucosamine

While “there’s not a ton of evidence out there to firmly say one supplement is going to help you over another,” Mysore said, glucosamine likely has the most evidence backing its use. Glucosamine naturally occurs in our bodies — it’s in your cartilage and helps your joints function. A glucosamine supplement is believed to help with arthritis in that it can bring down some of the pain brought on by osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.

Mysore said people with shellfish and iodine allergies need to be careful about taking this supplement, as it’s often made from shellfish, and that it could also affect people with asthma. It has the potential to cause side effects like nausea and heartburn, and there’s also a risk of interaction with blood thinners or anticoagulant medications that could cause bleeding issues. Talk with your doctor or dietician before adding it to your diet.

Omega-3s 

Omega-3s are fatty acids that can alleviate inflammation and joint pain. Research has shown that these supplements can reduce stiffness in people with arthritis and also combat joint pain. Studies have been conducted on how omega-3s work with arthritis, and it’s been proven that this fatty acid can “prevent experimental arthritis and may decrease disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis.” If you currently take a blood thinner, speak to your doctor before taking an omega-3 because they may interact and pose health risks.

Turmeric

Turmeric is not just a spice used in some cuisines, it’s been used in traditional medicine as a healing spice and it’s considered one of the more powerful natural ingredients you can add to your meal for a health boost. Specifically, its active ingredient or compound, curcumin, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Mysore says that if you’re interested in adding a turmeric supplement for pain relief, make sure it contains curcumin for better absorption. And as an alternative, tastier way to incorporate the spice’s wellness properties into your routine, Mysore suggested a meal that contains turmeric and black pepper, which contains a compound that can help the body absorb turmeric’s important properties. For example, she said, a smoothie with added turmeric and eggs seasoned with black pepper.

As is true with every supplement on this list, check with your doctor if you are taking prescription medications, as turmeric may interfere with blood thinners and immunosuppressive drugs, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Vitamin D 

Vitamin D is known to support bone health, which is why some believe a vitamin D supplement could be useful in aiding in joint health. There is some research that suggests taking a vitamin D supplement can help with arthritis pain and inflammation, but the result doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a definitive answer. However, this supplement could help. 

Vitamin D is a great resource for the body, helping you retain calcium, which also helps out your teeth! Take care when adding a vitamin D supplement to your routine, though, as high levels of this vitamin can interact with several drugs. Most notably, high levels of vitamin D can be highly problematic if you’re on Lanoxin, as it can put you at risk for hypercalcemia. Other medications mixed with a vitamin D supplement can also affect how your body processes the supplement.

Vitamin E

People often turn to vitamin E to support their immune systems, as this vitamin is an antioxidant. And, there is some research showcasing vitamin E may slow the progression of osteoarthritis and promote the growth of new cartilage cells. However, much of this research requires further study. That being said, vitamin E is a good supplement to keep in your rotation, as it also promotes good vision and brain health. Just note that it can interact with blood thinners and put you at risk for bleeding.

Chondroitin

You’ll often see chondroitin mentioned alongside glucosamine, as they’re similar. Chondroitin is also found in the cartilage in your body, which is why it’s believed to be beneficial in boosting joint health. Research into chondroitin has had largely inconclusive results, but it’s still accepted as a supplement that could be beneficial in aiding joint health. It’s generally viewed as a safe supplement, though, like many others, it can interact with blood thinners like Warfarin and put you at risk for bleeding. Chondroitin is often sold with glucosamine in supplement form.

Collagen

Collagen is a protein your body makes — and as you age, you have less and less of it. It’s what keeps your skin tight and firm and what keeps your joints working smoothly. But as you get older, there’s less collagen in your joints, which is where joint supplements could help. Though there isn’t a lot of research on whether collagen can actually help your joints, doctors largely think that it won’t hurt either — if it makes you feel better while paired with low-impact exercises like swimming, then go for it.

Risks of supplements for joint health 

As mentioned, most supplements are generally considered safe for people to take, and many of them are vitamins that your body requires. However, you should always research supplements before you start taking them, and it’s important you consult with your doctor first if you’re on prescription medication, since some supplements can interfere with the way drugs work. Many of them can interact with prescription medications, and you want to know that beforehand. 

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you’ll also want to go over any supplements with your doctor before you start taking them.

Joint supplement FAQs

Do joint supplements really work?

It can be tricky to nail down a proven medical benefit for any supplement — for joint health or otherwise. Supplements aren’t meant to be used as a remedy for a medical condition, but rather as something that will supplement or complement your diet, especially if you’re deficient in a nutrient. The supplements included in this best list were chosen because some research has found a potential benefit for joint health, though whether you decide to take one will depend on the medications you’re prescribed and your individual health concerns.

Does the FDA approve dietary supplements?

No, the US Food and Drug Administration doesn’t sign off on and investigate supplements like it does medications or drugs. “[The] FDA generally does not approve dietary supplement claims or other labeling before use,” it says. However, there are manufacturing practices and marketing rules that companies that make supplements must follow.

For more information, read on about how to read a supplement label.


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