Joint pain is extremely common — affecting more than 10 million people in the UK alone. And that’s just the people who have been diagnosed. There are millions more experiencing mild to moderate degrees of pain in the joints who have not sought medical help.
One of the main problems with joint pain is that the longer it persists, the worse it gets.
Over time, inflammation leads to the breakdown of cartilage, which in turn leads to more inflammation. It’s an endless cycle that continues to worsen until something is done to stop it.
This is why so many people are turning to the supplement world for help. Medications exist, but they tend to be overkill for early symptoms and may even lead to more dramatic side-effects of their own.
There are plenty of natural health supplements that can support the health of the joints, ease pain and inflammation, and restore protective cartilage in the joints.
Here, we breakdown five of the best health supplements for joint pain.
Green-lipped mussels are a species of mollusc living in the cold waters off the coast of New Zealand. They’re one of the most popular joint-supportive health supplements of the decade thanks to their affordability and high level of safety.
Green-lipped mussels work by supporting nutritional pathways in the joints — which makes them exceptionally safe to use and offers more preventative action than some of the other supplements on this list.
This particular species of mussel is rich in omega-3 fatty acids (especially eicosatetraenoic acid), as well as vitamins B12 and A, and trace minerals like zinc and selenium.
The star of the show here is the omega-3 fatty acids — which are abundant in the green-lipped mussel. This is the same reason why fish oils are so highly regarded for people with chronic joint pain and inflammatory disorders.
Omega-3 fatty acids work by providing the body with the precursor molecules needed to manufacture anti-inflammatory compounds — called resolvins and proteins. As their names might imply, these messengers serve to resolve inflammation and protect the cells after the inflammation process is complete.
Most people who use green-lipped mussel supplements take them on a daily basis to protect the joints and slow the progression of joint disorders over time. They also bring a variety of other health benefits for the immune, cardiovascular, and digestive tract.
Boswellia (aka frankincense) is an ancient anti-inflammatory herb — it’s been cherished by civilizations living throughout the middle-east for thousands of years.
The terpene-rich resin of the boswellia tree contains a series of compounds collectively called boswellic-acids. These compounds offer many health benefits that range from antibacterial and antifungal, to analgesic (pain-killing) and vulnerary (wound-healing). One of the most common
When it comes to fighting joint pain caused by underlying inflammation, it’s hard to compete with boswellia. Several of the more prominent boswellic acids produced by the plant work by inhibiting an enzyme known as 5-LOX (5-lipoxygenase).
This enzyme is important because it’s one of the two primary regulators of inflammation. 5-LOX converts omega-6 fatty acids (arachidonic acid) into messenger molecules that perpetuate the inflammatory response.
As we’ve already mentioned, ongoing inflammation leads to more joint damage, which leads to more inflammation.
By blocking the activity of 5-LOX, boswellia supplements may dramatically reduce pain and inflammation. Long-term use helps prevent further surges in joint inflammation and gives the body time to regenerate lost cartilage or synovial cells that serve to protect the joints.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is another ancient plant species with powerful anti-inflammatory benefits. It contains a rich supply of antioxidants, as well as an important compound known as curcumin.
Curcumin has been shown to offer direct pain-killing and anti-inflammatory benefit. It works by blocking one of the key inflammatory regulators known as COX (cyclooxygenase).
COX and 5-LOX are very closely related. Both are key rate-limiting steps in the inflammatory response. One of the most popular pain-killing drugs — Aspirin — works by blocking the COX enzyme.
One of the best ways to use turmeric is to take it in combination with boswellia. Both of these herbs complement each other by blocking the two primary inflammatory regulators involved with joint pain and inflammation.
Glucosamine serves as a precursor for cartilage tissue in the joints. The cartilage is a rubbery material that provides a cushion for the joint and prevents bones from rubbing together inside the joint.
Unfortunately, as we age, become injured, or suffer from chronic inflammation, the cartilage may deteriorate. As the cartilage tissue wears away we lose this important cushioning and the bones can begin rubbing together. This is extremely painful and leads to dramatically more inflammation and reduced mobility of the joint.
Glucosamine works by providing an important precursor molecule needed to regenerate lost cartilage. This gives the body ample opportunity to repair itself after an injury and slow the loss of cartilage tissue over time.
This supplement is especially helpful for exercise-induced joint pain after a long run or cycle but can also be used to benefit more chronic forms of joint pain.
CBD (cannabidiol) is a non-psychoactive compound in the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa). In the last decade, this compound has gone from a novel and unimportant ingredient in marijuana plants to one of the most common supplements on earth.
CBD works by regulating homeostasis — which is a fancy word for balance. A big part of homeostasis is inflammation and immunity. When our immune system is out of balance it can lead to poor immunity (immune deficiency imbalance), or chronic inflammation and autoimmunity (immune excess imbalance).
A lot of joint pain is the result of an excessive immune response. Allergens, chronic stress, viral infection, or underlying illness can all lead to a hypersensitive immune system (autoimmunity). This is an umbrella term for a process where the immune system mistakes our own cells as a foreign invader and seeks to attack and destroy it. One of the most common areas the immune system mistakenly attacks is our joints.
Immune-related joint pain is usually characterized by “hot” and swollen joints, especially in the late afternoon and evening.
CBD helps balance immune activity. If it’s deficient it boosts it back up. If excessive, it tones immune activity down so it stops attacking the joints.
Most of the immune-regulating effects of CBD supplements will take some time to work. However, there’s one way CBD can offer immediate benefit as well.
A high-quality CBD product contains more than just CBD. It includes all the other related cannabinoids and terpenes in the hemp plant. A large portion of these additional ingredients offers direct pain-killing effects. They block key channels in the nervous system that transmit pain signals from the body to the brain — which effectively reduces the amount of perceived pain.
Final Thoughts: Best Health Supplements for Joint Pain
Joint pain and damage are progressive — meaning that it will get worse over time if you don’t do something to stop it.
Luckily, there are several excellent health supplements you can use to fight joint pain and slow the progression of degenerative joint disorders.
The best option is the green-lipped mussel. This saltwater mollusc contains a rich supply of ETA (omega-3 fatty acid) — which is an important anti-inflammatory and nutrient necessary for healthy joint tissue.
With regular use, green-lipped mussels may help to curb the underlying cause of joint damage and offer nutritional elements that can promote faster recovery of the joints
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