Joint pain affects millions in the United States. The CDC estimates that over 50 million people in the US have arthritis, or about 25% of the population. The vitamin and supplement business in the United States is a multi-billion dollar enterprise.
The proof for the effectiveness of any of the compounds is very limited. In general, the best that can be said is that they may be helpful, and the only harm that is likely is possibly a hole in your pocket book. Today, we take a look at some supplements, their common dosages and what they treat. Be sure to check back in later in the week for more information on other pain supplements.
Glucosamine is one of the top supplements recommended for joint health. This is a chemical that can be found naturally in the human body. As we age, the levels tend to decrease. It is used by the body in helping build tendons, ligaments, cartilage and the synovial fluid in and around joints. Most commonly it is recommended for those with osteoarthritis. Knee pain is the most common location. In rare cases, side affects have included increases in blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugars. The dose that has been studied is 500 mg three times a day.
Mixed with glucosamine is chondroitin, and this is also normally found in the cartilage of joints. It is manufactured from animal sources, commonly cow cartilage or shark cartilage. Chondroitin is supposed to help with arthritis pain and may help with osteoporosis. It is supposed to work by slowing down breakdown of joint cartilage. A caution is recommended if you have asthma or are on a medicine to prevent blood clots since this may interfere with both conditions. The typical dose is 200 to 400 mg two to three times a day, but it may be all taken at once.
Omega 3 fatty acid supplements are used for a variety of conditions. It has been recommended for blood pressure control, cholesterol, depression, ADHD, diabetes, osteoporosis and inflammatory conditions causing pain including arthritis. Omega 3 fatty acids in fish oil are not made by the body, so ingesting them is necessary, and they reduce pain and swelling. For any condition, this supplement is said to help, but literature also indicates there is a possibility it may also worsen that condition. The dosing for arthritic conditions is about 4 grams a day.
Ginger root is commonly used for muscle and joint pain along with stomach pain. The chemicals in ginger root are thought to work in the stomach and intestines as well as the nervous system to affect inflammation. There is a definite interaction with blood clotting medications, like Coumadin, increasing bleeding problems, so if you are on those, do not take ginger root. There are various ginger extracts on the market and suggested dosing is 170 mg three times a day to 250 mg four times a day.
That’s all we’re going to cover today. Swing back on Wednesday for more information on supplements.
Thomas Cohn, MD
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