In the human body, the bones provide the supporting structure and the muscles generate the force required for movement. This movement is only possible due to the articulation of joints, the place where two or more bones meet. There are a number of different types of joints and each has a specific function and range of movement.
The Biology of Joints
The human body is a framework of bones and joints that are specifically designed to perform a number of simultaneously and interdependent functions. The skeleton also provides the scaffolding necessary for muscle attachment as well as acting as levers to generate movement and maintain posture.
Synovial joints are the most common as well as the most complex joint in the body. In the joint space of synovial joints there is a lubricant known as synovial fluid, which is critical for maintaining the health of the joint. Synovial fluid not only acts as a lubricant but also provides nutrients and absorbs impact forces.
Enclosing the joint is the articular capsule and this is supported by accessory ligament structures composed of dense bands of collagen aligned in parallel. Ligaments provide stability to the joint as well as preventing any extreme movements that may damage the joint.
The cartilage that covers the ends of the bones is a type of hard but flexible connective tissue composed of a densely packed matrix of collagen and elastic fibers. Cartilage has no blood supply and therefore any damage inflicted is difficult for the body to heal.
Degeneration of the Joints
There is a growing body of research that suggests there are many significant clinical benefits of joint support supplementation. According to research, oral administration with joint support supplements can help maintain healthy cartilage, revitalize the synovial fluid, and improve joint mobility. These benefits may help people with joint-related disorders such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and is often associated with disability and poor quality of life. People suffering from osteoarthritis often take joint support supplements for their ability to protect joints and prevent joint pain.
Studies have shown that joint support supplementation is an emerging treatment for osteoarthritis through its ability to improve pain and function outcomes. In fact, people with knee pain but no history of arthritis can benefit from joint support supplements to help prevent the onset of arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints. It is the most common autoimmune disease of the joints and is characterized by inflammation of the joints and their subsequent loss of function.
Supplementation with joint support not only improves pain outcomes but is also a natural remedy that will help promote quality of life through improvement in patients’ mobility. In addition, through the reduction in pain and increased quality of life, mood and mental health can also be improved.
Joint Support Health Benefits
Joint support supplements have been scientifically proven to naturally assist the maintenance of optimal joint health, reducing age-related degeneration and improving joint health after injury.
Supplements that support healthy joints come with the following health benefits:
- Strengthens cartilage
- Replenishes synovial fluid in the joints
- Promotes joint cushioning
- Improves ease of mobility
- Reduce joint swelling
- Reduce joint stiffness
- May help rebuild lost cartilage
- Reduces joint pain in rheumatic patients
- Reduces joint pain that is exercise-induced
- Reduces symptoms of osteoarthritis
Joint Support #1 – Glucosamine
Glucosamine is an amino sugar (glucose-amine) that is an essential building block for the biosynthesis of glycosylated proteins and lipids. Glycoproteins are present in high quantities in articular cartilage and synovial fluid of the joint.
Oral glucosamine supplements come as either glucosamine hydrochloride or glucosamine sulfate. These compounds have been approved as a registered drug in Europe for the treatment of osteoarthritis and have been shown to be effective at relieving inflammation and joint pain.
Daily supplementation with glucosamine supplements promotes healthy joints primarily through the alleviation of joint pain and joint swelling. Glucosamine is observed to have anti-inflammatory and anti-catabolic effects that give people a more effective management plan for living with osteoarthritis.
In one study, glucosamine was shown to enhance the production of hyaluronic acid (HA) through regulation of the enzymes responsible for HA synthesis in the joints. Hyaluronic acid is part of the lubricating fluid that helps joints to move freely without friction.
- Relieve arthritic joint pain
- Improve joint mobility
- Improve joint range of movement
- Help maintain healthy joints
- Support recovery from joint-related injuries
Joint Support #2 – Chondroitin Sulfate
Chondroitin sulfate sits alongside glucosamine as the most common and widely used joint support supplement available. In combination, these supplements are effective at supporting joint health as well as having analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties in cases of degenerative and age-related joint disorders.
The progressive mechanical stresses that are placed on the joints can result in the development of chronic joint conditions. These conditions are characterized by the destruction of the articular cartilage that cover the surface of the joints. This can then result in impaired joint movement as well as pain, swelling and even disability.
Chondroitin sulfate is enriched in sulfur-containing amino acids, which are essential building blocks for many compounds used to make new cartilage. In addition, chondroitin supplementation effectively supports the joints through maintenance of the synovial fluid as well as inhibiting cartilage degeneration.
- Improve joint pain
- Prevent degradation of the articular cartilage
- Restore lost cartilage
Joint Support #3 – Collagen
Collagen is a group of fibrous proteins that are primarily found in the body’s connective tissues. It is the most abundant family of proteins in mammals and at present, 28 types of collagen have been identified and characterized.
Collagen is a structural protein and is found in cartilage, the skin, blood vessels, tendons, and many other parts of the body. It is characterized by its unique mechanical properties, which contribute to the integrity, shape and strength of these tissues.
Collagen is found particularly enriched in joint cartilage where it forms a matrix that provides strength and support for healthy joints. It is for this reason that people often supplement with collagen for its benefit to protect joints and prevent joint pain.
Collagen supplements not only help individuals with joint pain but may also be beneficial at reducing swelling and inflammation. Through this action, collagen supplements can help relieve joint pain associated with exercise, injuries and arthritis.
However, it also appears that for people who are physically active and have no history of joint disease may also receive benefits from collagen supplementation. This is because collagen supplements are believed to naturally support the maintenance, repair and regeneration of healthy joints.
- Improve joint pain outcomes
- Help maintain healthy joints
Joint Support #4 – Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid, or hyaluronan, is a large polymeric glycosaminoglycan that is widely distributed throughout the connective tissues in the body but is highly concentrated in the synovial fluid of joints. Hyaluronic acid serves as a lubricant that reduces friction during joint movements.
In osteoarthritis, levels of hyaluronic acid are notably diminished and it is common for osteoarthritis patients to have hyaluronic acid injections into the joints to prevent further deterioration of the joint cartilage. However, oral supplements of hyaluronic acid are a less invasive and just as effective alternative to injections.
Although it is widely believed that the body cannot absorb large polymeric compounds, such as hyaluronic acid, a recent study showed that bacteria in the small intestine help this process by partially breaking down hyaluronic acid.
Therefore, hyaluronic acid supplements offer a real alternative to painful injections and regular hospital visits. Furthermore, there are many randomized double blind clinical trials that show oral supplements of hyaluronic acid to be a very effective joint support supplement.
Hyaluronic acid supplements not only reduce knee discomfort and pain but also improved mobility and greater range of movement compared to placebo as well as:
- Improving joint lubrication
- Effective joint support
- Improving joint movement
- Relieving pain associated with arthritis and inflammation
- Reducing joint discomfort
- Enhancing mobility and therefore improving muscular strength
Joint Support #5 – Methyl Sulfonyl Methane
Methyl sulfonyl methane (MSM) is a concentrated and highly bioavailable form of sulfur that provides the body with enough sulfur to optimize the formation of compounds necessary for cartilage regeneration.
The organic sulfur in MSM supports processes that help reduce inflammation and pain in the joints as well as strengthen and repair connective tissue. In one animal study, MSM was shown to significantly inhibit arthritis-related cartilage degeneration.
- Improve cartilage repair
- Reduce wear and tear of cartilage
- Assist in regeneration of healthy strong cartilage
Joint Support #6 – Boswellia Extract
The Boswellia Serrata tree produces a resin that is used to make frankincense, a traditional Ayurvedic medicine. Frankincense is a natural resin that has been used for centuries to make an incense that produces an aromatic and curative smoke. In this context, frankincense is used in many cultural and ritualistic ceremonies.
Frankincense was also used as a medicinal remedy for a variety of ailments including dysentery, asthma, ringworm, cardiovascular disease, jaundice and many others issues. More recently, studies show that frankincense contains many compounds that have potent anti-inflammatory properties.
Further studies into frankincense show that it is enriched in six types of boswellic acid, the most potent of which is called 3-acetyl-11-keto-B-boswellic acid (AKBA). These boswellic aids have been found to inhibit the synthesis of pro-inflammatory substances commonly found in inflamed areas of the body.
Furthermore, research shows that its mode of action is different to common painkiller drugs or NSAIDs. Therefore, the anti-inflammatory properties of boswellic acids that are found in Boswellia extract supplements can naturally help relieve pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints and thus promote freedom of movement.
- Potent anti-inflammatory
- Reduces swelling and stiffness in the joints
- Reduce pain associated with arthritis
- Supports proper joint movement
Joint Support #7 – OPC Extract
Oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPC) are a group of natural bioflavonoids that have potent antioxidant properties. OPC compounds are found enriched in many natural extracts, including grape seed, red wine, pine bark and green tea.
Antioxidant compounds help the body’s defense against oxidative stress - the pathophysiological process behind many age-related and chronic ailments. In particular, degenerative disorders such as arthritis are not only caused by mechanical wear and tear but also reactive biochemical metabolites.
Grape-seed extract is a naturally enriched source of antioxidants such as proanthocyanidin, which have been shown to have many therapeutic uses. These extracts can scavenge free radicals thus inhibiting oxidative stress that is associated with inflammation in conditions such as age-related joint disease.
- Reduce injury-related joint swelling
- Prevent age-related degeneration of the joints
- Promote and support healthy ageing of the joints
Who Should Use Joint Support Supplements?
Joint support supplements can help people with the following health issues:
- Rheumatoid patients
- Osteoarthritic patients
- Athletes experiencing pain during movement
Joint Support Side Effects and Risks
Joint support supplements appear to be safe and non toxic when taking at the recommended doses even in the long term. However, the following side effects and risks have been reported:
- Glucosamine supplementation may affect blood sugar levels and therefore diabetics should consult their doctor prior to taking glucosamine
- People who suffer from shellfish allergies should not supplement with chondroitin because chondroitin is derived from shellfish sources
Joint Support Supplements Interactions
- Glucosamine may reduce the efficacy of some chemotherapy drugs such as doxorubicin, etoposide and teniposide
- Glucosamine may interact with some blood thinners such as warfarin
Joint Support Supplements Combinations
- Glucosamine and chondroitin are regularly combined together due to this combination having superior anti-inflammatory and anti-catabolic effects.
- Minerals such as manganese and zinc are often included with joint support supplements to improve the buildup of cartilage.
Why Take Joint Support Supplements?
Supplementing with natural therapeutics for joint support has the following benefits:
- Relief from joint pain
- Slow joint degradation
- Slow the progression of arthritis
- Reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis
- Reduce the risk of developing arthritis
- Reduce joint swelling and stiffness
- Enhance recovery and rehabilitation from joint injuries
- Improve joint motion
- Improve range of movement of joints
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