A joint supplement provides an effective way to address the underlying causes of joint pain and stiffness, and thereby gain relief.
Joint supplements are safer than NSAIDs, have no practical limit on how long they can be taken, are non-addictive, and help repair damaged joints while reducing inflammation.
Most joint supplements use a combination of researched compounds such as glucosamine and chondroitin. Some also employ anti-inflammatory ingredients such as MSM and boswellia that do the important work of helping to reduce oxidative stress in joint tissues.
There are many joint supplements on the market today. Our investigation has determined that the following are the best joint supplements of 2021.
1. Nuzena Joint Support +
Nuzema is not a household name, but their Joint Support+ is fast becoming a household favorite. It is loaded with a potent combination of anti-inflammatories and helpful compounds that approach joint health from multiple angles.
What we like: Nuzena Joint Support+ provides an array of ingredients that complement each other and bolster overall joint health. That, in turn, reduces inflammation and the associated pain. This product is third-party tested and carries the USP seal that ensures it is free of heavy-metals and other contaminants.
Flaws: Both glucosamine and chondroitin are derived from animal products and so this is definitely not vegan-friendly. This product appears to have identical ingredients as the VitaBalance ProJoint Plus but at a higher price, about $50 for a 1-month supply.
2. EasyFlex Joint Formula by 1MD
1MD EasyFlex takes a slightly different approach by eschewing Longvida® Optimized Curcumin, UC-II® Undenatured type II collagen, and WokVel® Boswellia Serrata.
What we like: EasyFlex relies on these these 3 powerful ingredients plus the antioxidant astaxanthin to reduce inflammation and joint damage. They are also one of the few that is shellfish-free, which will appeal to vegans. The collagen may help your skin look better.
Flaws: Some may find it unreasonably expensive at $50 for a 30-day supply (before discounts). It also contains whey protein and is therefore not suitable for those avoiding dairy.
3. VitaBalance ProJoint Plus
VitaBalance ProJoint Plus is our #1 joint supplement pick of 2020 because it contains a variety of ingredients to help support your joints. It also contains no artificial ingredients, additives, or colors.
What we like: VitaBalance ProJoint Plus contains a variety of different ingredients to prevent cartilage loss and reduce inflammation, including turmeric, glucosamine, chondroitin, methionine, and Boswellia. Bromelain is also included which is an enzyme obtained from pineapple that helps to repair damaged tissue and reduce inflammation and pain.
It also includes lesser known anti-inflammatory ingredients such as quercetin and methylsulfonylmethane for maximum joint support.
Flaws: It’s expensive, about $45 for a 30-day supply, but you get what you pay for.
4. Vimerson Glucosamine with Chondroitin
Vimerson leverages the power of glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM and bromelain to help reduce inflammation and its associated pain and stiffness.
What we like: Provides a robust blend of anti-inflammatory and joint-supporting ingredients that get right to the heart of joint pain. This product also contains turmeric that studies show may help reduce the progression of osteoarthritis.
Flaws: Plenty of glucosamine, turmeric and boswellia but short on the chondroitin at only 150mg per serving. This product also doesn’t specify the percentage of curcuminoids.
5. NOW Supplements, Glucosamine & Chondroitin
NOW has been producing high-quality supplements in their US facility since 1968. Their joint supplement is a powerful blend of anti-inflammatories and the beneficial sulfur compound MSM. If you want dependable quality, NOW will not disappoint.
What we like: The straightforward combination of glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM provides powerful anti-inflammatory and joint-supporting benefits. It is made in a GMP facility and is very affordable at about $13 for a 30-day supply.
Flaws: Not the cheapest on the market.
6. Arazo Nutrition Joint Support
Arazo Nutrition Joint Support provides no-nonsense doses of glucosamine and chondroitin, tosses in a dash of turmeric to fight osteoarthritis, and wraps it in a flavorless coating that goes down easy. Joint Support is also subjected to rigorous 3rd party testing.
What we like: We love the generous amounts of glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM in every serving. The hyaluronic acid is great for keeping joints well lubricated so they do not stiffen up. The included turmeric is a potent analgesic and anti-inflammatory compound that can help arrest the progression of osteoarthritis.
Flaws: This product contains additives such as silicon dioxide and artificial colors like Red 40. While it also contains turmeric, it doesn’t specify the percentage of curcuminoids so the concentration is questionable.
7. Garden of Life Joint Support Supplement
GoL Joint Support takes an alternative approach to joint health by embracing systemic enzymes that promote mobility and overall joint health. It finds a spot on our list because research supports proteolytic enzymes’ effectiveness, plus countless people sing its praises.
What we like: We applaud the company’s dedication to finding alternative paths to wellness. The capsules are very easy to swallow and research shows they are a safer alternative than NSAIDs (source). This supplement is also free of shellfish-derived glucosamine.
Flaws: Three capsules up to four times a day is a lot to ask and the capsules do have a strong odor.
8. Phytochoice Glucosamine Chondroitin MSM
Phytochoice Glucosamine Chondroitin is mostly glucosamine but provides an impressive array of secondary ingredients that address everything from bone strength to muscle integrity. It is a well-rounded supplement that considers all components of the joint.
What we like: Phytochoice Glucosamine Chondroitin and MSM is an all-natural product free of fillers and genetically modified organisms. It is one of the few that also provides turmeric, boswellia, quercetin, and bromelain that all promote healthy joints. We also love that this product is third-party tested and is at an affordable price, about $15 for a 30-day supply.
Flaws: Do not expect miracles overnight.
9. Zenwise Glucosamine Chondroitin Sulfate
Zenwise chooses not to reinvent the wheel with their Glucosamine Chondroitin Sulfate joint supplement. They build their supplement around those two joint-supportive compounds, then add a dash of turmeric and MSM to improve mobility and fight osteoarthritis.
What we like: This supplement leans heavily on mainstays glucosamine and chondroitin but also provides a generous helping of 1000 mg of MSM. MSM can slow the progression of osteoarthritis, and that is bound to pay plenty of long-term dividends. The supplement is well-rounded with the addition of turmeric, boswellia, and hyaluronic acid.
Flaws: Not the easiest pills to swallow. The glucosamine is derived from shellfish, the turmeric does not list the percentage of curcuminoids, and several additives are in the ingredient list.
10. Move Free Advanced Plus MSM
Move Free brings together all the usual suspects when it comes to anti-inflammatory joint relief and adds boron, in the form of calcium fructoborate, for extra support. While the net amount of chondroitin is lower than some other supplements, the higher MSM makes up for it.
What we like: The tablets are easy to swallow for people of any age. The ingredient list is populated by known anti-inflammatories and the MSM is higher than the other supplements in our list, at 1500mg, similar to the amount used in osteoarthritis studies. The hyaluronic acid is also a nice touch that promotes cartilage health.
Flaws: This product has several additives and doesn’t have the USP label and is not third-party tested.
Who Needs a Joint Supplement?
The obvious answer is anyone suffering from the scourge of arthritis, be it osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the result of wear and tear on the joints and often leads to limited mobility and chronic pain. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease characterized by the destruction of joint materials, disfiguration, and intense pain. People with either condition are likely to enjoy the benefits of a good joint supplement.
However, joint supplements are not just for arthritis sufferers. Because they can bolster overall joint health, joint health supplements should also be considered by anyone who feels chronic aches and pains and wishes to reduce the odds that they will eventually develop arthritis. Not only that, but athletes who often suffer from acute joint pain and stiffness can also may benefit from making a joint supplement part of their routine.
How We Ranked
While far-reaching in their potential benefits, for the most part, joint supplements are simple supplements that typically lean on a limited number of ingredients to work their magic. When assessing joint supplements, we start by checking to see if they include fundamental ingredients like glucosamine and chondroitin. If they do not, then they need to provide other well-researched ingredients that address inflammation and the various root causes of joint pain.
The supplements also need to provide their ingredients in sufficient quantities to make a quantifiable difference. We also do not want to see those quantities hidden behind a ‘proprietary blend’ label. As more often than not these days, that simply masks ingredient shortfalls.
Finally, it is important that these supplements are produced in Good Manufacturing Practices (1) facilities in the US because they must follow stricter regulations. It is also important that they do not bombard the user with a rash of unnecessary ingredients that might undermine the effectiveness or quality of the supplement as a whole.
Joint supplements reduce arthritis pain. Arthritis is one of the most common degenerative diseases there are. In the United States alone, it is estimated that more than 50 million adults have arthritis (2). That is a staggering number that is only going to get worse as the population continues to age. Joint supplements address many of the aspects of arthritis that cause discomfort and pain.
Joint supplements fight inflammation. Inflammation is a natural part of the body’s immune response. However, when chronic conditions like arthritis are involved, the body does not know when to turn the inflammatory response off. As a result, the person ends up in constant pain from the inflammation (3). Joint supplements that include compounds that produce anti-inflammatory benefits such as glucosamine or boswellia and chondroitin can provide much-needed relief.
Joint supplements are safer than NSAIDs. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs do a good job providing temporary relief from joint pain. The problem is, taking them for long periods of time puts your heart, kidneys and digestive tract at risk. Studies have shown that long-term use of NSAIDs can increase blood pressure, the risk of heart attacks and strokes and the development of gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers (4).
Joint supplements improve mobility. By reducing inflammation, alleviating pain and discomfort, and promoting healthy bones and cartilage, joint supplements have the potential to improve mobility in most people. Joint stiffness is a major byproduct of arthritis and can lead people to cut back on their physical activities. Joint supplements can help reverse that trend.
Joint supplements can reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a devastating autoimmune disease that attacks the joints. It can be extremely painful as well as disfiguring. As of this writing, there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment focuses on addressing the symptoms and managing inflammation. In addition to lifestyle and dietary changes that may help, joint supplements have demonstrated an ability to relieve some of the pain and symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis (5).
Joint supplements may help you reclaim your active social life. As joint pain becomes progressively worse, most people cut back on activities. First to go is usually exercise. Over time they may also stop going out to dinner, make fewer trips to the park and eventually, fewer trips to see loved ones. There is no positive spin you can put on that type of forced isolation. Joint supplements may help reverse the trend and help people reclaim their social life.
Joint supplements are affordable. Even the most expensive joint supplements are extremely affordable when compared to prescription painkillers, physical therapy, and frequent doctor visits. Most wind up costing less than a dollar a day, which is quite a value when you consider how much they can improve a person’s quality of life.
Joint supplements may slow the progression of osteoarthritis. Both glucosamine and chondroitin, along with collagen, have shown promise in clinical trials when it comes to slowing the progression of osteoarthritis, though not all research agrees (6). The current research points to joint supplements being potentially important alternatives to other medications that display greater levels of toxicity.
Joint supplements work for people of all ages. Anyone of any age who is suffering from joint pain may benefit to some degree from joint supplements, though those with more severe disease seem to benefit the most. Whether you have injured your knee playing sports at school or are dealing with chronic arthritis pain, joint supplements may answer the call for help.
Joint supplements often contain collagen, which is good for your bones. Collagen is one of the building blocks of strong bones (7). Many joint supplements include collagen as a complementary ingredient to glucosamine and chondroitin. The collagen in these supplements helps ensure that the bones forming your joints are not a weak link in the musculoskeletal frame and that they do not contribute to joint pain.
Joint supplements can help athletes recover from injuries. Most people associate joint supplements with older folks wrestling with the pain of arthritis. Older folks are not the only ones dealing with stiff, painful joints, however. Athletes push themselves physically all the time and often pay the price with sore muscles and painful joints. Joint supplements are a safe and effective way for athletes to seek relief.
Joint supplements may help relieve back pain. We say ‘may’ because there has not been sufficient clinical research to prove or disprove the claim. Nonetheless, there is anecdotal and some scientific (8) evidence that turmeric (contained in some joint supplements) may indeed help alleviate back pain stemming from sciatica.
Joint supplements do not require a prescription. Most medications today require a prescription, but that is not the case with joint supplements. They can be obtained quickly and legally through myriad online shops, health food stores, supermarkets, and over the counter at most pharmacies. You will not have to worry about seeing the doctor every time you run out.
Joint supplements help you regain flexibility. Inflammation not only causes pain, but it also limits movement and mobility. Chondroitin, a common ingredient in joint supplements, has demonstrated an ability to improve joint function and range of motion. It does this by bolstering the integrity of joint cartilage. This, in turn, reduces the amount of friction that occurs when you try to move (9). The result is greater flexibility, but according to a previous test tube study, only at high doses. More research is needed.
Joint supplements may enable you to take a pass on painkillers. Joint pain is one of the most insidious types of pain. It is at its worst when you are trying to move about and conduct the business of your life. Many people rely on painkillers to deal with joint pain, but prescription painkillers are expensive, laden with side effects, and many are highly addictive (10). Joint supplements may help you avoid painkillers.
Joint supplements are non-addictive. As we just mentioned, prescription painkillers may be effective, but that effectiveness can take a serious toll, including the possibility of addiction (11). Joint supplements, on the other hand, are completely free of narcotics and pose no threat of addiction. You can take them multiple times a day and never have to worry about them ruining your life the way opioids can.
Joint supplements help prevent loss of cartilage. As we saw a bit earlier, glucosamine and chondroitin in joint supplements can help restore mobility by bolstering the integrity of cartilage. In doing so, it not only reduces the friction produced by damaged cartilage, but it can also halt, (or significantly slow), the process of cartilage loss (12) associated with arthritis.
Joint supplements improve your quality of life. The net result of all the above benefits is that joint supplements may significantly improve a person’s quality of life. By alleviating pain, improving mobility, and providing a non-addictive alternative to painkillers, joint supplements prove their immense value on a daily basis. If you are looking for an affordable, safe, and effective way to obtain joint pain relief, this is it.
Q: What are joint supplements?
A: A supplement for joint pain is a dietary supplement that uses a combination of organic compounds to address the causes of joint pain and provide long term relief. Most joint supplements take the form of a tablet or capsule, and most contain glucosamine and chondroitin. Some may include other anti-inflammatories like boswellia, omega-3 fats, or turmeric. Anyone can purchase joint supplements without a prescription.
Q: How do joint supplements work?
A: Joint supplements are not like opioids (13), which produce pain relief by dulling the central nervous system. Instead, joint supplements address the causes of joint pain and stiffness. Those causes typically include inflammation from osteoarthritis, as well as injuries incurred by running or other athletic activity. Unlike opioids, joint supplements are non-addictive, though relief may take a couple of weeks to set in.
Q: Do I need a prescription for joint supplements?
A: No, you do not need a prescription for any of the joint supplements on the above list.
Q: What are some things to look for in a joint supplement?
A: Joint supplements rely on natural compounds that have a proven track record of reducing inflammation. There are only a relative handful of these natural compounds out there. Glucosamine and chondroitin are the two best known potentially helpful compounds, but they are not alone. Turmeric and boswellia also have proven anti-inflammatory capabilities. So, any joint supplement should include some combination of these ingredients.
Q: What is glucosamine?
A: Glucosamine (14) is a compound naturally present throughout the body in bones, joints and bone marrow. It is also present in shellfish and fungus. Supplemental glucosamine, typically derived from shellfish, is used to help buttress the integrity of major joints and because it possesses properties that help relieve pain commonly associated with arthritis and joint injuries. Glucosamine does not relieve pain by dulling the nerves; instead, it treats the cause of the pain.
Q: What is chondroitin?
A: Chondroitin (15) is a sulfate that occurs naturally in the joint tissue of various animals. Most chondroitin used for joint supplements is derived from bovine tissue. Chondroitin has been clinically proven to reduce joint pain associated with osteoarthritis in some people (16). There is some evidence to suggest it may also help slow the progression of arthritis (17). You will almost always see chondroitin partnered with glucosamine in joint pain supplements.
Q: Why do joint supplements contain turmeric?
A: Most people will know turmeric as a spice that is added to curry dishes to give them their distinctive taste and yellow color. The good news is that turmeric is more than just a food additive. Joint supplements – including many of the ones on our list – use the root of the turmeric plant, which contains curcumin. Curcumin is known to have anti-inflammatory properties and is often used to treat arthritis and tendonitis (18), as well as other inflammatory conditions.
Q: Can boswellia reduce inflammation?
A: Boswellia is a type of tree native to the mountains of India and certain parts of the Middle East. It is believed to have significant anti-inflammatory properties (19), which makes it a potentially valuable ingredient in joint pain supplements. Since much of the pain from both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis is the result of inflammation, boswellia is often added to joint pain supplements to increase their effectiveness.
Q: What is methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)?
A: Methylsulfonylmethane, or MSM, is a naturally occurring chemical compound found in certain primitive plants such as ferns and mosses. In clinical studies it has demonstrated the ability to relieve pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis and may also benefit others with knee and hip injuries (20).
Q: What is a ‘proprietary blend’?
A: You may see the term ‘proprietary blend’ on some supplement labels. The FDA requires either all supplement ingredients to be declared by weight or with a proprietary blend designation. While the proprietary blend designation may help some companies preserve privacy of their formulations, it is also sometimes used simply to prevent customers from seeing that they are not getting as much of a particular ingredient as they may think they are.
Q: Does the FDA approve of glucosamine for joint pain?
A: The FDA considers both glucosamine and chondroitin to be dietary supplements. Although they typically oversee the operation of the facilities where these supplements are produced, they do not impose any particular regulations on their sale. Nor do they endorse or discourage their use.
Q: Is there any clinical evidence glucosamine works?
A: There is quite a bit of clinical evidence that both glucosamine and chondroitin can alleviate moderate to severe joint pain (21). The jury is still out, however, on whether either is effective at reducing low-level pain in the knee and hip joints.
Q: Where does glucosamine come from?
A: There are several different kinds of glucosamine. But the glucosamine found in dietary supplements – glucosamine sulfate – comes almost exclusively from shellfish. As such, those with shellfish allergies and vegans would do well to avoid it. Glucosamine may also be produced by fermenting various grains, but that process is expensive, and few supplement makers opt to take that route.
Q: Where does chondroitin come from?
A: Chondroitin is typically derived from cow tissue, although it can also be found in pigs, sharks, and birds. If you are vegan or vegetarian, that will obviously be problematic.
Q: Can diabetics use glucosamine?
A: You may have heard that glucosamine worsens blood sugar management. Clinical research, however, has found no link between glucosamine and elevated blood sugars (22). So, yes, diabetics should be able to use glucosamine. If you have any doubts, discuss the matter with your doctor.
Q: Does glucosamine have any other side effects?
A: Glucosamine may cause mild side effects in some people including indigestion, diarrhea, nausea or constipation. If you experience any of these side effects to any significant degree, you might want to discuss the situation with your doctor. If you are experiencing stomach distress, it may help to take the supplement with your meals, rather than on an empty stomach.
Q: Can glucosamine help athletes?
A: Many think of joint supplements as being only for older folks with arthritis. Research shows that they may, in fact, be just as beneficial for young, athletic types recovering from performance-related knee injuries by improving flexion and extension, though not pain (23). Athletes often suffer joint injuries of various types (24), and knee injuries can threaten a career if not effectively treated. The fact that a joint pain supplement can help hasten recovery should be good news for all athletes.
Q: Does chondroitin have any side effects?
A: Chondroitin is generally regarded as safe and effective for most people. However, some have reported side effects that include diarrhea, nausea, and mild stomach upset. Also, it is thought that chondroitin may thin the blood, and so it should probably be avoided by those with blood clotting disorders like hemophilia (25) and those already on blood thinning medications, unless prescribed by your doctor.
Q: When it comes to joint supplements, how much should I take?
A: The given dose of a particular joint supplement will change from product to product. The most important thing is to read the label carefully and adhere to the recommended dosage. If you have any questions or fear a joint supplement may interfere with another supplement you are taking, consult your doctor.
Q: Are all joint supplements the same?
A: Not at all. The unfortunate truth is that any popular product (and, with the aging of the population (26), joint supplements have become very popular), is going to attract poorly-produced supplements and frauds. Joint supplements are no different. The fact that the FDA considers joint supplements to be dietary supplements and does not regulate them, only serves to exacerbate the situation and open the door to pretenders and fakes.
Q: Are joint supplements expensive?
A: Joint supplements are an affordable way to potentially obtain relief from chronic joint pain. In the vast majority of cases, a joint supplement will cost less than a dollar a day. Compare that to the cost of prescription medications, physical therapy, and repeated doctor visits. Most people consider a modest investment in joint supplements to be money well spent.
Q: Why doesn’t the FDA regulate joint supplements?
A: It is not entirely accurate to say the FDA does not regulate supplements. While the FDA does not oversee supplement production strictly like prescription medications, FDA regulators are concerned with protecting people from products that are blatantly mislabeled or misrepresented. There have been many instances over the years where the FDA has banned certain products due to safety concerns or that contain active ingredients similar to prescriptions (27).
Q: Will a joint supplement provide immediate pain relief?
A: No. A joint supplement is not a pain killer in the traditional sense. Instead, it addresses the cause of the joint pain, which is typically inflammation, swelling and cartilage loss. As such, it may take a week or two (or longer) before you start to feel significant pain relief. The reason people take joint supplements instead of NSAIDs is that NSAIDs should not be taken for more than 10 days (28). Joint supplements, however, can be taken day after day for extended periods of time.
Q: Should I take joint supplements?
A: Only you can decide if a joint supplement is right for you. That said, if you are experiencing joint pain on a regular basis and it is beginning to interfere with the quality of your life, then you should consider a joint supplement. Unlike many types of prescription painkillers, joint supplements are non-addictive and exhibit a much better safety profile compared to many prescription treatments. They are also very affordable, so give them a try. If they do not work, talk to your doctor about alternatives.
Joint supplements are a safe, affordable way to improve joint health while at the same time reducing pain from arthritis, injuries, and other causes.
Joint supplements are not like traditional painkillers in that they do not provide pain relief by blunting the nervous system’s messaging and sensitivity to pain signals. Instead, they address the origins of the pain by bolstering the integrity of bones and cartilage and reducing the accompanying inflammation.
All of the joint supplements on the above list contain researched compounds, many with anti-inflammatory properties. Many go a step or two further by providing ingredients like collagen that shores up bone strength, and turmeric (curcumin) that may arrest joint degradation associated with arthritis.
For cpoe.org’s #1 recommended joint supplement, click here.