Most of us already know that supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin can help with knee joint issues. But, what about vitamins for knee pain?
Well, vitamins are essential micronutrients. When deficient or in excess, they can result in many diseases and disorders, including knee pain.
Below, we’ll take an in-depth look at 6 common vitamins – A, B12, C, E, D, and K- and how they relate to knee pain. Here’s what we’ll cover, tap on any of these bullets to easily navigate through the content:
6 Vitamins for knee joint pain
1) Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a potent antioxidant with numerous bodily functions. It’s essential for the normal development of the outer layer of cells in the skin, eyes, intestines, and urinary tracts.
And while vitamin A is essential, current evidence suggests it may not help treat knee arthritis pain.
Vitamin A deficiency can lead to a number of health conditions, such as (3):
- Night blindness.
- Poor wound healing.
- Abnormal immune functioning.
Also, taking too much of it can do a lot of harm. It can lead to (3):
Taking 4000 IU/kg or more of vitamin A daily for 6 to 15 months can present with joint and bone pain, headache, fatigue, and skin changes.
A single dose of 25,000 IU/kg can result in nausea, diarrhea, drowsiness, and skin changes.
Isotretinoin, a derivative of vitamin A is a well-documented teratogen — a substance that causes defects in a developing fetus.
Vitamin A can be obtained from the diet. Chief dietary sources are (3):
- Animal sources such as fish, dairy products, and meat.
- Plant sources such as vegetables and colorful fruits.
For supplement form of vitamin A, the daily recommended intake is 3000 IU per day. (5)
2) Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin. It is essential for the synthesis of DNA, fatty acids, and nerve coverings. (6)
And although it may not treat knee pain, it can prevent other conditions that cause knee pain. For example, rheumatoid arthritis.
See, vitamin B12 deficiency can raise the levels of homocysteine.
But in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, vitamin B complex supplements can reduce homocysteine levels, thus helping with this condition. (7)
Unlike other water-soluble vitamins, vitamin B12 is stored in the liver. So, deficiency is rare. But, if it does occur, the consequences can be severe, such as (8):
- Arthritis due to deposition of excess homocysteine levels.
- Anemia, a condition characterized by low levels of red blood cells.
- Permanent nerve damage due to poor synthesis of myelin — the sheath that covers nerves.
Vitamin B12 toxicity is uncommon. This is because our body can’t store it in excess – it gets rid of it to keep levels stable. So even large doses of vitamin B12 are considered to be relatively safe. (9)
The main dietary sources are animal products such as dairy, eggs, and red meat. (9)
The daily recommended dietary intake of vitamin B12 is 2.4mcg per day. (9)
3) Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin known to be a potent antioxidant. It’s essential for the synthesis of collagen, an important component of joint cartilage. It is also needed for iron absorption.
- It’s a potent antioxidant that protects the joints from injury by free radicals.
- It ensures healthy cartilage growth in joints as it is crucial for the synthesis of collagen — a component of joint tissue.
Our body can’t make vitamin C on its own. So, we completely rely on external sources to get the required dose.
Usually, vitamin C deficiency occurs after a long time of inadequate dietary intake. This can result in a condition called scurvy, which presents with (11):
- Severe joint pain.
- Easy bleeding.
- Poor wound healing.
- Weight loss.
If vitamin C is taken in excess, it can cause (12):
- Stomach cramps.
Vitamin C can be obtained from fruits and vegetables. Some sources are (12):
- Citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons.
- Broccoli, strawberries, and tomatoes.
- Supplements and fortified foods.
The daily recommended dose of vitamin C is 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women. This requirement increases by 35 mg in smokers. (12)
4) Vitamin E
Vitamin E, also known as tocopherol, is a fat-soluble vitamin with antioxidant properties and anti-inflammatory effects.
And, it may be beneficial for knee pain. Studies show that vitamin E levels are low in the synovial fluid of people with osteoarthritis. (13)
This suggests that its deficiency may contribute to knee pain. So, its supplementation should, in theory, help relieve joint pain.
Researchers agree with this, believing that vitamin E may help reduce joint pain because (13):
- It possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
- It plays a significant role in cartilage regeneration after a breakdown.
Yet, some people with intestinal disorders may have problems absorbing nutrients. This can lead to vitamin E deficiency. In such cases, the main symptoms are:
- Numbness and tingling of hands and feet.
- Weakness of muscles.
- Visual disturbances.
- Poor immune response.
Studies suggest that low vitamin E levels are also associated with osteoarthritis. (13)
Of the fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin E has the least risk of toxicity. But, taking high doses can impair the absorption of other vitamins. This can result in (14):
- Poor bone mineralization.
- Bleeding disorders.
Vitamin E can be obtained from several food sources, such as (15):
- Seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils.
- Green leafy vegetables and avocados.
- Soybean, wheat, corn, and canola.
- Fortified cereals.
The recommended daily intake of vitamin E is 15 mg per day. (15)
5) Vitamin D
Vitamin D is famously known as the sunshine vitamin. This is because it gets synthesized when sunlight falls on the skin. It’s essential for maintaining normal calcium levels in the body. (16)
And according to the Arthritis Foundation, taking vitamin d can help manage inflammatory arthritis symptoms. (17)
See, vitamin D supplementation can indirectly help knee pain.
It does so by preventing other conditions that cause or worsen knee pain. For instance, osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a condition with low bone mineral density. This can make a person prone to fractures even with minor trauma.
Such fractures can worsen joint pain in two ways:
- It can disrupt the blood supply to joint tissue and further aggravate osteoarthritis.
- An abnormal fracture healing can alter the shape of joints and lead to joint issues.
Thus, by preventing osteoporosis, vitamin D may help prevent knee pain.
Low vitamin D levels are common in urban societies due to a lack of sunlight exposure. Its deficiency can lead to poor bone mineralization, resulting in (16):
- Rickets in children.
- Osteomalacia in young adults.
- Osteoporosis in older adults.
All three can cause abnormality in bone and joint structure, worsening joint pain.
Toxicity with vitamin D is rare. However, it’s possible if very high doses are consumed through supplementation. This can lead to high calcium levels in the body, which can cause uncomfortable symptoms such as (16):
- Increased thirst and urination.
- Kidney stones.
The major source of vitamin D is sunlight exposure. Other dietary sources are (17):
- Fatty fish such as trout, tuna, salmon, and mackerel.
- Fish liver oils.
- Meat and fortified dairy products.
The recommended dietary intake of vitamin D is 15 mcg or 600 IU per day (17).
6) Vitamin K
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin essential for regulating blood coagulation pathways. It’s also essential for normal bone and cartilage mineralization. (13)
This is because the lack of vitamin K can decrease the number of nutrients that get into the joint cartilage. This means weaker tissue, thus aggravating or worsening the joints that knee arthritis affects. (13)
Also, recent studies have linked low vitamin K levels with osteoarthritis. (13)
Vitamin K toxicity is also rare. If it does occur, it can result in liver dysfunction, which can manifest as (18):
- Green leafy vegetables and fruits.
- Meat and eggs.
- Dairy foods.
The daily recommended intake of vitamin K in adults over 19 is 120 mcg in males and 90 mcg in females. (19)
Other supplements for knee pain
Aside from vitamins, there are many supplements for treating knee joint pain. Medically reviewed supplements known to be beneficial for knee pain management include:
- Glucosamine – hydrochloride and/or sulfate.
- Chondroitin sulfate.
- Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Hyaluronic acid.
What vitamins are good for knee pain?
Vitamin B12, C, D, E, and K are good for knee pain.
What vitamins should I take for knee pain?
You can take vitamin B complex, and vitamin C, D, E, and K for knee pain.
Does vitamin deficiency cause knee pain?
The deficiency of vitamins B12, C, D, E, and K may contribute to knee pain.
Conclusion: Can vitamins work as knee pain relievers?
The deficiency of certain vitamins can make symptomatic knee osteoarthritis worse. But taking them as a supplement may help treat knee pain.
These include vitamins B12, C, D, E, and K. In contrast, excess vitamin A may worsen knee pain.
- Davies, Mark R., et al. “Ligands for retinoic acid receptors are elevated in osteoarthritis and may contribute to pathologic processes in the osteoarthritic joint.” Arthritis & Rheumatism: Official Journal of the American College of Rheumatology 60.6 (2009): 1722-1732.
- Shingleton, W. D., et al. “Retinoic acid combines with interleukin‐1 to promote the degradation of collagen from bovine nasal cartilage: Matrix metalloproteinases‐1 and‐13 are involved in cartilage collagen breakdown.” Journal of cellular biochemistry 79.4 (2000): 519-531.
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- Martin, I., et al. “Quantitative analysis of gene expression in human articular cartilage from normal and osteoarthritic joints.” Osteoarthritis and Cartilage 9.2 (2001): 112-118.
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- Yxfeldt, A et al. “Homocysteine in patients with rheumatoid arthritis in relation to inflammation and B-vitamin treatment.” Scandinavian journal of rheumatology vol. 32,4 (2003): 205-10.
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- “Office of dietary supplements – vitamin B12” NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Dunlap, Burton et al. “Vitamin C supplementation for the treatment of osteoarthritis: perspectives on the past, present, and future.” Therapeutic advances in chronic disease vol. 12 20406223211047026. 20 Oct. 2021.
- Abdullah M, Jamil RT, Attia FN. Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) [Updated 2022 Jan 25]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499877/
- “Office of dietary supplements – vitamin C” NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Zheng, Xiao-yan, et al. “Role of fat-soluble vitamins in osteoarthritis management.” JCR: Journal of Clinical Rheumatology 24.3 (2018): 132-137.
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- “Vitamin D and Arthritis: Arthritis Foundation.” Vitamin D and Arthritis | Arthritis Foundation, https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/treatment/complementary-therapies/supplements-and-vitamins/vitamin-d-deficiency-debate
- “Office of dietary supplements – vitamin D” NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
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