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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best supplements for arthritis pain

Last Updated July 2019

Arthritis pain sufferers often seek relief through prescription or over-the-counter analgesics, steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs, and heat therapy. While these treatments may be effective in the short term, they can be expensive over time. Some treatments, such as cortisone injections, can actually accelerate tissue deterioration. A popular homeopathic alternative is the arthritis pain supplement. These supplements often include sugar-derived ingredients such as glucosamine and/or chondroitin as well as a sulfur-based product called MSM (methylsulfonylmethane).

Because supplements targeted at arthritis pain are considered food products and not medication, there are no FDA standards. Some contain therapeutic levels of vitamins or minerals; others rely heavily on unregulated ingredients like glucosamine and chondroitin. We offer an in-depth discussion of the benefits and potential drawbacks of arthritis pain supplements in this detailed guide.

The FDA considers glucosamine chondroitin MSM supplements to be food products, not drugs. Manufacturers are not required to verify any health claims or benefits.

How do arthritis pain supplements work?

The basic mechanism behind arthritis pain supplements is tissue repair. Osteoarthritis and other medical conditions cause painful inflammation and degenerative tissue damage primarily in the joints. As the body loses its natural lubricants and protective cartilage, the nerves, muscle tissue, and bones can become inflamed and painful to the touch. Prescription pain medications usually address inflammation and swelling, but they do not always address the loss of fluids, cartilage, and bone tissue over time.

This is where arthritis pain supplements enter the picture. Natural ingredients ordinarily produced in the human body, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, are supposed to encourage the regrowth of cartilage and other protective tissues. MSM is a sulfur-based substance that penetrates inflamed tissue and helps ease inflammation. Other ingredients found in these supplements may also help improve overall bone density, restore lubricating synovial fluids, or reduce inflammation.

Comprehensive supplement blend

While glucosamine chondroitin blends may get more attention, the Osteo Bi-Flex Joint & Immune Support Formula powder is a good route to follow for overall arthritis and fibromyalgia pain relief. The powder is flavorless and easy to add to beverages. The blend contains glucosamine, calcium, gelatin, and vitamin D3, all of which are important for joint health.

Are arthritis pain supplements safe and effective?

In terms of consumer safety, most arthritis pain supplements do not contain controlled substances or other prescription-strength medications. They are classified as food supplements, not medication. However, you should consult with your physicians before beginning a regimen of this type. Diabetics should be careful when using sugar-based ingredients such as glucosamine and chondroitin, and those with severe shellfish allergies should also use caution.

The effectiveness of arthritis pain supplements is a matter of debate. The beneficial effects may not appear for several months, as the body slowly begins to rebuild lost tissue or fluids. Anecdotal testimony from satisfied users indicates a noticeable degree of relief from pain and swelling, but these claims are not fully supported by scientific studies.

EXPERT TIP

Some manufacturers add other natural anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as shark fin cartilage and turmeric, to their glucosamine chondroitin blends.


Staff  | BestReviews

Common ingredients in arthritis pain supplements

The default ingredient list of many arthritis pain supplements includes glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM. However, manufacturers are not restricted to these ingredients. Here is a list of potential ingredients which should be clearly displayed on product packaging.

Glucosamine
Glucosamine is a natural substance produced by the human body. It is usually found in joint fluids, bone marrow, and shellfish. It helps with the repair of cartilage damaged by inflammation. It can raise blood sugar levels in diabetics but is generally considered safe. There is no established therapeutic dose.

Chondroitin
Chondroitin is similar on a molecular level to glucosamine and is also found naturally in human joint tissue. Several reputable studies link the use of chondroitin with significant relief from osteoarthritis pain. It has some blood-thinning properties, so users taking blood-thinning medications or certain cancer drugs should caution.

MSM
MSM is naturally found in green plants, but it is also produced in the human body. It is often touted as a miracle supplement that can help with a wide variety of medical conditions. The primary function of MSM in arthritis pain supplements is to deliver beneficial sulfur to damaged tissues.

Turmeric
Turmeric is a spice with a number of claimed health benefits. It is commonly found in prepared mustards and Indian food. As a supplement, turmeric is considered to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Vitamin D3
Some arthritis pain supplement blends include standardized vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D3, which helps strengthen bone tissue and improve general resistance to inflammation.

Calcium
Calcium is an important supplement in terms of overall bone health. It is not always included in arthritis pain supplements, but users will benefit from its presence. The dosage may not be therapeutic, however, so additional calcium supplements may be helpful.

DID YOU KNOW?

Glucosamine chondroitin supplements are used to relieve symptoms of osteoporosis, cataracts, glaucoma, bladder problems, heart disease, high cholesterol, and TMJ

Arthritis pain supplement prices

Blends containing glucosamine, chondroitin, and/or MSM are among the pricier supplements on store shelves. There are several reasons for this, including high consumer demand and a challenging manufacturing process. However, prices vary between well-known and lesser-known brands. Beware of imported products sold in bulk a deep discounts. Here’s a general idea of what to expect.

Under $15: At this price range, many supplements contain minimal amounts of glucosamine, chondroitin, or MSM. The rest of the ingredients are generally a blend of natural and artificial vitamins, fatty acids, and gelatin. Effectiveness varies, and the product may only be available in pill or capsule form.

Between $15 and $25: This price range includes many of the commercial brands sold in the dietary supplement aisle. The ingredient list typically touts a blend of glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM, along with other anti-inflammatory ingredients such as turmeric, shark fin cartilage, and hyaluronic acid. The supplements may be in pill, capsule, or powder form.

Over $25: High-end arthritis pain supplements are generally sold online and in specialized health food stores. Most include therapeutic levels of glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM, along with an array of vitamins and minerals. Calcium, vitamin D3, and hyaluronic acid are common ingredients. This is also the price range where flavorless powders are sold in bulk.

DID YOU KNOW?

Glucosamine naturally occurs in bone marrow, bone tissues, fungi, and shellfish.

Tips

Adding an arthritis pain supplement to your daily regimen may help slow the degeneration of joint tissue, but you should not expect immediate or dramatic results. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

  • Allow several months of regular use before evaluating effectiveness. Rebuilding lost collagen and cartilage takes time, and natural supplements work at a slower rate than prescription anti-inflammatory drugs.

  • Consult with a physician before, during, and after taking a supplement. Your doctor will want to make sure there are no dangerous interactions with prescription medications and no serious side effects associated with the ingredients in your supplement.

  • Shop according to brand and reputation, not price. Because this type of supplement is not regulated, few industry standards exist. To find the best and safest products, avoid ordering products from unfamiliar suppliers.

  • Read the list of ingredients carefully. The ingredients in your supplement may go beyond the basic glucosamine/chondroitin combination. Products containing sulfur, for example, may be good for rebuilding cartilage, but they may also trigger allergic reactions. Shellfish derivatives are common ingredients, too — if you have an allergy to shellfish, you should not take these supplements.

Affordable and effective

Many joint pain supplements are notoriously expensive, but Schiff’s affordable alternative does not skimp on effective ingredients. Besides the preferred glucosamine hydrochloride, it also includes a therapeutic amount of vitamin D3, which helps strengthen bone tissue. For cartilage repair, Schiff adds hyaluronic acid to the mix.

Other products we considered

Turmeric is a popular natural joint pain reliever, and in addition to the products on our shortlist, we like Glucosamine with Chondroitin Turmeric MSM Boswellia from Vimerson Health. It is formulated with non-GMO ingredients and is free of soy and dairy. Another product that addresses multiple issues is T6 Cryotherapy by Team Six Supplements. It also contains no GMOs, and the manufacturer touts its bioavailability.

Glucosamine and chondroitin are formed from sugar molecule chains, but the main component of MSM is sulfur.

FAQ

Q. I have type 2 diabetes. Can I safely add glucosamine chondroitin supplements to my diet to help with joint pain?
A.
Both glucosamine and chondroitin are derived from sugar chains, which means they can raise blood glucose levels. Consult with a physician before using these supplements, as the risks may outweigh the benefits.

Q. I’ve heard stories about supplements with glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM actually making arthritic joint pain worse for some users. Is this true, and what might cause these problems?
A.
There is minimal scientific research on the benefits and risks of glucosamine chondroitin supplements. One study was halted because recipients of the supplement reported increased pain compared to placebo recipients. Some users may be allergic to shellfish, a key source of glucosamine. Others may not have stopped taking the supplements before realizing any long-term benefits.

Q. My doctor advised me not to take glucosamine chondroitin supplements for my osteoarthritis pain because of interactions with my other medications. Is this a common concern?
A.
Chondroitin has a natural blood-thinning element, which means it could interact with prescription blood thinners such as Warfarin or Coumadin. These supplements can also interact with certain cancer drugs. It is always a good idea to consult a medical professional before adding a supplement to your diet.

 

The team that worked on this review
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    Eliza
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    Web Producer
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