Can Supplements Really Help Joint Problems Like Arthritis?

With so much media ‘hype’ and ‘headline’ claims that sometimes fall foul of the stringent rules of the Advertising Standards Council, one could be forgiven for thinking that there is little point in taking supplements for painful and debilitating joint problems such as Arthritis.

However, there is good, solid research to back up the claims that some supplements really do have benefits and Arthritis Research UK is just one of the organizations funding the latest research into new compounds that could provide a breakthrough in the treatment of Arthritis in the future.

Research on Sulforaphane

broccoli sulphoraphane
Broccoli is also rich in sulphoraphane.

Arthritis Research UK are currently funding a research project which began in February last year at the University of East Anglia into whether a compound called sulforaphane, which is naturally found in broccoli (and similar vegetables from the same family), can prevent or slow the progress of Osteoarthritis.

If the research is successful, clinical trials could begin. This would involve providing participants with broccoli extracts to see whether this is of benefit in slowing down the progression of the disease. In the meantime, it has been shown that simply eating broccoli produces high levels of sulforaphane in the blood and as this is likely to be a safe and natural treatment, keep on eating your greens!

Supplements Backed Up With Proven Clinical Research

Information on the following supplements has been taken from the website of Arthritis Research UK and from WebMD regarding contraindications.

Fish Oil Supplements

Several clinical trials where participants with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) used an average daily dose of 3.5 grams of Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil supplements suggested that there was:

  • A significant reduction in the use of painkillers
  • A reduction in the severity of joint pain
  • A reduction in the number of joints affected by swelling or tenderness
  • Reduced fatigue and shorter duration of joint stiffness experienced in the mornings

Fish oil supplementation is safe for most people however, if you are taking medication for high blood pressure or are using oral contraceptives, these can interact with fish oil supplements and you should consult your healthcare professional before considering taking them.

Evening Primrose Oil (EPO)

The evidence is inconclusive as to whether EPO is effective in reducing joint pain in RA and it does not alter the progression of the disease. However, there is evidence to show that it can improve morning joint stiffness.

EPO supplementation is safe for most people but you should be aware that it can slow blood-clotting so if you are already taking anticoagulant medication from your Doctor, you should take advice before considering this supplement.

Borage seed oil

Borage seed oil is a supplement rich in GLA, a fatty acid that can help in regulating the body’s immune system and reducing the inflammation in joints, evidence suggests that taking a relatively high dose of GL (more than 1 gram per day) may help to improve the symptoms of RA.

If you are taking medications that increase the breakdown of other medications by the liver, you should not take Borage because of interactions and possible build up of toxins. In addition, you should stop taking Borage oil supplements before any planned surgery and should consult your Doctor before taking them if you are already taking any anticoagulant medication.

Popular Supplements Where Evidence is Inconclusive

Glucosamine and Chondroitin are two compounds commonly taken for osteoarthritis. Many thousands of people swear by these supplements and although some studies have found that taking them regularly can improve the health of cartilage damaged by Osteoarthritis, other studies have not found any benefit.

In their section about Glucosamine and Chondroitin for Osteoarthritis, Arthritis Research UK state that  manual therapy from a Chiropractor for the neck and back pain of Osteoarthritis may be helpful in relieving this pain.  Chiropractic is so often the answer for joint pain and we can provide advice on appropriate supplementation that may help too.

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