Of all the supplements for knee pain, only a few have scientific evidence to support their advocated benefits. Those are the ones we’ll focus on in this article.
These include glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, curcumin, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, calcium, and hyaluronic acid.
Below, you’ll learn about each one, how they promote knee joint health, and how to take them safely. Here’s what we’ll cover – tap on any of these topics to quickly navigate throughout the article:
8 supplements with knee pain-relieving effects
Glucosamine is a natural substance found in our joint tissues. It’s normally obtained from our diet but is also available in supplement form.
It contributes to joint cartilage formation.
Cartilage is the cushion to our knee joints. It’s formed by minerals – such as calcium – and other organic materials, like glucosamine.
Now, if there’s cartilage loss, our body is capable of regenerating it when we’re young and healthy. But to do this, it requires the basic materials – like glucosamine and calcium – to rebuild it.
Taking joint supplements like glucosamine can help with this. Thus, keeping the knee cartilage healthy and promoting its recovery after damage.
It has anti-inflammatory properties.
Glucosamine also possesses anti-inflammatory effects. This is extremely helpful in treating arthritis and osteoarthritis symptoms, with fewer side effects than other pain relievers like NSAIDs.
Learn more: Our full guide on glucosamine sulfate.
Chondroitin is a naturally occurring substance in our joint tissue.
And like glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate is another major contributor to cartilage structure. It also possesses anti-inflammatory properties. Thus, its ability to treat joint pain is quite similar to glucosamine.
Further reading: Benefits of chondroitin supplements for knee pain
What about taking glucosamine and chondroitin together?
Studies show that combining glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate is more beneficial than taking either supplement alone. (3)
So, if possible, try taking them together. Several brands offer this combination.
Check this out: All about glucosamine chondroitin for knee health
Methylsulfonylmethane, or MSM, is a natural substance containing sulfur. While MSM can be obtained from the diet, it is also available in supplement form.
Now, for knee pain, MSM supplements can be quite helpful.
See, MSM can prevent cartilage breakdown by reducing inflammation.
By controlling inflammation, it can also help reduce joint stiffness and swelling.
Related: MSM – with or without glucosamine?
Curcumin has long been used in herbal and alternative medicine. As of late, it has received much attention from the scientific community for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Clinical evidence suggests that taking turmeric supplements may be beneficial for knee pain. This may be due to (6, 7):
Its strong anti-inflammatory effects on the joint cartilage.
Curcumin can reduce joint inflammation, relieving knee pain, swelling, and stiffness.
Its inhibitory action on joint degrading enzymes.
Curcumin inhibits the action of enzymes that degrade joint cartilage. This can prevent further cartilage loss in degenerative joint diseases.
Its ability to scavenge free radicals.
Free radicals are byproducts of our body’s metabolism. When accumulated, they can further degrade joint cartilage.
But curcumin, a potent antioxidant, can prevent this from happening by keeping these chemicals in check.
5) Fish oils
Fish oils provide several health benefits, but few people know their ability for managing knee pain.
See, these supplements have a strong anti-inflammatory effect. This makes them a great strategy for treating osteoarthritis in the knee and other inflammatory joint conditions.
This is because fish oils are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
These are needed by every cell in our body. And, taking them in supplement form can help knee problems in two ways.
First, omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties. This makes them effective at reducing pain naturally. (8)
Second, they promote blood flow. Reduced blood supply – due to aging or previous health conditions – can deprive our tissues of oxygen and nutrients. This in turn delays the regeneration of joints after an injury. (9)
So, taking fish oil supplements can keep our joints healthy by promoting blood flow. This ensures our tissues get all their nutrients and heal at a normal rate. (9)
Know more: All about fish oil for knee pain.
Magnesium is a mineral, essential for normal body functioning. And because it also has anti-inflammatory effects, it can help manage knee pain. (10)
And it can be particularly effective for inflammatory joint conditions like osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
For example, studies show that osteoarthritis severity is associated with magnesium deficiency. (11) This may be because low magnesium can aggravate inflammation.
Calcium does not reduce joint pain immediately like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Instead, it helps knee pain indirectly. (12)
See, this mineral is the building block of bones. Its deficiency can result in weak, fragile bones that are at a high risk of fracture.
Now, fractures tend to occur close to the joints. If this happens, it can reduce the blood flow going to the joint, disrupting its structure and making the joint itself prone to injury and pain. (12, 13)
But, if you have a deficiency of this mineral, taking calcium supplements can help you prevent fractures by keeping your bones healthy.
8) Hyaluronic acid
Hyaluronic acid is a natural chemical present in our joints, and the chief component of synovial fluid.
See, our joints contain a slippery liquid within them – synovial fluid. It acts as a shock absorber and provides nutrients to our knees. Hyaluronic acid is there, too.
There are two forms of hyaluronic acid supplements for symptomatic knee osteoarthritis:
Hyaluronic acid injections
Hyaluronic acid injections are the second-line treatment of knee osteoarthritis. If knee pain doesn’t respond to painkillers, then these injections are given. (16)
Studies show that they can delay knee osteoarthritis progression and relieve pain in some people. But, they require 6 to 12 monthly doses for continued benefit. (14)
Oral hyaluronic acid supplements
But, some studies suggest this oral form may help prolong the action of hyaluronic acid injections. (15)
Supplements and drug interactions
If you take other medications to treat a previous health condition, please consult a doctor before taking any supplement.
This is because some of them can interact with your pills and/or increase your risk of side effects.
And although the risk of supplements interacting with medications is low, it is best to be cautious. So, first, check with an expert before starting any new supplement.
Other treatments for knee pain
Supplements are not a complete cure for knee pain. You must combine them with other treatments to really see long-term results, like:
- Strength training to promote knee health.
- Physical therapy to identify the root cause of your knee pain.
- Home remedies for pain relief.
If you’re not sure what other treatments you should do, make an appointment with a doctor to get your knee joint pain medically reviewed.
Depending on your symptoms, you should visit an orthopedic doctor or a rheumatologist.
Check our guide on which doctor to visit for knee pain to save you time.
What supplements can you take for knee pain?
Many supplements can help treat knee pain, such as glucosamine, chondroitin, fish oils, MSM, curcumin, magnesium, calcium, and hyaluronic acid.
Are supplements good for knee pain?
Yes, some supplements can help knee pain.
Is it safe to take supplements every day?
Yes, as long as you follow the recommended dosage. However, if you have a previous medical condition, discuss it with your doctor first.
Conclusion: Taking supplements for arthritic knee pain
Many supplements are available for knee pain. But, not all of them have scientific evidence to back their benefits.
When choosing supplements, it is best to take those proven to help knee pain and have minimal risk of side effects.
Some supplements known to help knee pain are glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, fish oils, curcumin, magnesium, calcium, and hyaluronic acid.
- Reginster, J., et al. “Current concepts in the therapeutic management of osteoarthritis with glucosamine.” BULLETIN-HOSPITAL FOR JOINT DISEASES NEW YORK 63.1/2 (2005): 31.
- Ogata, Toru et al. “Effects of glucosamine in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Clinical rheumatology vol. 37,9 (2018): 2479-2487.
- Richy, Florent, et al. “Structural and symptomatic efficacy of glucosamine and chondroitin in knee osteoarthritis: a comprehensive meta-analysis.” Archives of Internal Medicine163.13 (2003): 1514-1522.
- Lubis, Andri MT, et al. “Comparison of glucosamine-chondroitin sulfate with and without methylsulfonylmethane in grade I-II knee osteoarthritis: a double blind randomized controlled trial.” Acta Med Indones 49.2 (2017): 105-111.
- Ezaki, Junko, et al. “Assessment of safety and efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane on bone and knee joints in osteoarthritis animal model.” Journal of bone and mineral metabolism 31.1 (2013): 16-25.
- Daily, James W et al. “Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials.”Journal of medicinal food vol. 19,8 (2016): 717-29.
- Paultre, Kristopher et al. “Therapeutic effects of turmeric or curcumin extract on pain and function for individuals with knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review.” BMJ open sport & exercise medicine vol. 7,1 e000935. 13 Jan. 2021.
- Calder, Philip C. “Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory processes.” Nutrients 2.3 (2010): 355-374.
- Zanetti, Michela, et al. “Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: structural and functional effects on the vascular wall.” BioMed research international 2015 (2015).
- Li, Yaqiang, Jiaji Yue, and Chunxi Yang. “Unraveling the role of Mg++ in osteoarthritis.” Life sciences 147 (2016): 24-29.
- Hu, Congqi et al. “Relationship between dietary magnesium intake and rheumatoid arthritis in US women: a cross-sectional study.” BMJ open vol. 10,11 e039640. 9 Nov. 2020.
- Chlebowski, Rowan T., et al. “Calcium plus vitamin D supplementation and joint symptoms in postmenopausal women in the women’s health initiative randomized trial.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 113.10 (2013): 1302-1310.
- Harvey, Nicholas C., et al. “The role of calcium supplementation in healthy musculoskeletal ageing.” Osteoporosis international 28.2 (2017): 447-462.
- Bowman, Steven et al. “Recent advances in hyaluronic acid-based therapy for osteoarthritis.” Clinical and translational medicine vol. 7,1 6. 16 Feb. 2018.
- Burdick, Jason A., and Glenn D. Prestwich. “Hyaluronic acid hydrogels for biomedical applications.” Advanced materials 23.12 (2011): H41-H56.
- Zhang, Wei, et al. “Emerging trend in the pharmacotherapy of osteoarthritis.” Frontiers in Endocrinology 10 (2019): 431.
- Bannuru, Raveendhara R., et al. “Relative efficacy of hyaluronic acid in comparison with NSAIDs for knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Seminars in arthritis and rheumatism. Vol. 43. No. 5. WB Saunders, 2014.
- Kim, Dong-Chan, et al. “Anticoagulant Activities of Curcumin and Its Derivative.” BMB Reports, vol. 45, no. 4, Korean Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology – BMB Reports, 30 Apr. 2012, pp. 221–226. Crossref.
- Sterzi, Silvia, et al. “The efficacy and safety of a combination of glucosamine hydrochloride, chondroitin sulfate and bio-curcumin with exercise in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.” European journal of physical and rehabilitation medicine 52.3 (2016): 321-330.
- “Vitamin and Mineral Guide for Arthritis.” Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved on April 2022 from: https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/treatment/complementary-therapies/supplements-and-vitamins/vitamin-and-mineral-guide-for-arthritis