• Bernard Robin Baker

Supplements for Joint Pain

Updated: Apr 10

A recent slideshow from WebMD discusses the age-old problem for people of a certain age: Joint Pain. I personally have osteoarthritis in my knees, so it caught my attention. To see the full slide show, click here:

Here’s a synopsis:

Some of the info was, to me, “old news.” Glucosamine, Chondroitin, Fish Oil/Omega-3s, Turmeric/Curcumin.

Boring. Tell me about something I haven’t heard about.

Less well known, at least to me, is Vitamin D. Scientists who study rheumatoid arthritis, WebMD says, have found that people who have rheumatoid arthritis often lack vitamin D. Low levels of this essential nutrient may lead to chronic pain. When you take it as a supplement, it could help your arthritis treatment work better. Interesting.

But then, the slideshow leaps into (to me) the unknown. When I first looked at the slides, I thought “Well, I’ll just get these one by one and try them out and see what works for me. I’ll just move through the list.” After all, all of these are freely available. But, after just a little investigation, and speaking only for myself, I’m not so sure….

The first suggestion is Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM). WebMd says that taking 1,000 to 3,000 mg or more of this natural chemical every day may help with symptoms of knee osteoarthritis, such as pain and swelling. OK! exactly what I have got! But, then, I noted the use of the words “may help.” Elsewhere, WebMD points out some risks:

How about Borage Oil? Ever heard of that? Well, WebMd says that it is an extract from seeds of the borago plant and is high in gamma linolenic acid, a fatty acid that fights inflammation in the body. Daily borage oil supplements may help treat symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and even reduce the dose you need of your prescription treatments for joint pain and swelling. Elsewhere, WebMD says to only use products that are certified and labeled PA-free. And there are other precautions:

SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine). Ever heard of that? WebMD says that your liver produces this chemical compound. When you take it as a supplement, studies show SAMe can work as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. It may also help repair cartilage damage that causes arthritis symptoms. Information available elsewhere on WebMD makes this one sound truly scary to me: Note: Web MD says use of SAMe can cause people with bipolar disorder to convert from depression to mania.

Here's another: Boswellia. Also called Indian frankincense, WebMD says that this plant extract has been a part of African and Asian folk medicine for centuries. The active ingredient in Boswellia can help with pain and improve movement in your joints. Research also shows it can slow down cartilage loss. WebMD suggests avoiding this when pregnant or breast feeding or if you have an auto-immune disease including rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or other immune system conditions.

How about Cat’s Claw (Uncaria Tomentosa)? WebMD says that this woody vine from Central and South America contains chemicals called tannins and sterols that may soothe inflammation. Studies show it might help with knee pain in osteoarthritis without side effects. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, cat’s claw could help ease pain and swelling in your joints. Plenty of precautions to think about here, also:

And finally, ever heard of Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiables (ASU)? WebMD says that your joints are lined with special cells called synovial cells. ASU helps protect them so they can promote the growth of healthy connective tissue. Studies show that over time, people with osteoarthritis who take ASU supplements may need less pain medication than they did before. Well, hey, what could be wrong with avocados and soybeans? Heck, I grew up with a soybean field across the road from my family’s property. Well:

In addition to the above, WebMD says what to avoid: Supplements, like any medicine, come with risks. Thunder god vine, for example, has unpleasant side effects that may outweigh any potential benefit to your joints. Chaparral, arnica, and homemade kombucha tea can be toxic to your liver. Talk to your doctor before trying supplements of any kind -- even if you’ve heard they’re good for joint pain.

YED bottom line? The supplements you have heard of may be old news, but the others are, in some cases, to me truly scary. Personally, I’m sticking with the old news.

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