If you're experiencing joint pain or are an athlete who wants to keep your joints strong and prevent injury, taking the best supplements for joint health can help. The wear and tear of rubbing, pounding, bending and moving in sports and everyday life can cause joints to weaken, and supplements may help build your joints back up, offering support and strength. Knowing which supplement ingredients are the most effective can help you improve your joint health.
Glucosamine sulfate is a naturally occurring amino acid that provides material for the body to make glycosaminoglycan, which is found in cartilage. Cartilage connects the bones in the body and allows smooth movements. Glycosaminoglycan can help repair and strengthen cartilage, combating the effects of cartilage loss from aging and damaged cartilage from injuries. Glucosamine can lessen osteoarthritis pain and increase joint lubrication. The supplements are derived from the shells of shellfish such as shrimp, lobster and crab. Glucosamine is often combined with chondroitin in joint supplements.
Chondroitin sulfate is found in bones and cartilage and helps cartilage hold water and nutrients. Chondroitin sulfate can help the joints absorb shock better and block enzymes that break down cartilage, as well as promote healing of the bones. Supplements with chondroitin sulfate are usually derived from bovine trachea or pork by-products. Chondroitin and glucosamine are more effective when combined.
Methylsulfonylmethane -- or MSM -- is an organic sulfur compound that naturally occurs in fruits, vegetables, grains, animals and humans. Sulfur helps form connective tissue in the body and provides material for the body to make cartilage. There have been no large, controlled studies performed with MSM. One study on 50 men and women with knee osteoarthritis showed that 6,000 mg of MSM improved symptoms of pain and physical function without major side effects. MSM may offer analgesic benefits, helping numb joint pain.
Supplements should not be taken in place of medical treatment. Talk to your doctor about taking supplements for your joints to compliment your treatment program. Most joint supplements are available in combination form, offering glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate and MSM in one pill, which is cheaper and easier to take than individual supplements for each ingredient. Be aware of side effects from the supplements, which may include an upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation and heartburn. Glucosamine sulfate may cause increased blood glucose, cholesterol, triglyceride and blood pressure.