Many arthritis patients have problems with their knee joints, including cartilage wear and tear. There are many popular supplements on the market for knee arthritis that do not require a doctor’s prescription. However, before taking a supplement for knee cartilage, it is important to understand both the benefits and the potential side effects.
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Function of Supplements
People with arthritis in their knees often experience chronic pain, though pain intensity may vary from person to person. Many arthritis medications are designed to treat the symptom, not the underlying problem. In other words, they may treat the pain caused by arthritis, but they do nothing to repair the components of the joint itself. This includes cartilage, ligaments and lubricating fluid. Several supplements on the market claim to improve the integrity of the knee joint. The question is, how well do they really work?
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Glucosamine and chondroitin are probably the most popular joint supplements on the list. While they can be taken separately, they are often available in combination form. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, AAFP, glucosamine is the most commonly used supplement by people who have arthritis. Glucosamine is thought to improve joint structures such as ligaments and cartilage, as well as increase the synovial fluid in the joints. Chondroitin is also thought to improve joint structure. Based on the Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial of 2006, the Arthritis Foundation recommends glucosamine and chondroitin as a combination supplement for those with moderate to severe arthritis. However, it may not be as effective for those with milder arthritis pain.
SAMe is another supplement that can potentially repair cartilage in large joints for people with arthritis, including the hip and knee joints. SAMe is thought to increase cartilage thickness as well as to diminish the extent of cartilage damage that is often caused by arthritis. In addition, it may help regulate pain signals in the brain, making it comparable to common prescription and over-the-counter arthritis medications. SAMe may require some time before it is effective, however. The AAFP reports that it may take many weeks for symptom relief.
MSM and ASU
MSM stands for methylsulfonylmethane, which is present in some fruits and vegetables as well as leafy plants. ASU stands for avocado-soybean unsaponifiables, which comes from the oils of each of the two products. Both are thought to reduce the effects of wear and tear on the large joints in the body, such as the knee joint. MSM is commonly added to glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, though on its own, research has yet to show significant improvement in pain. The jury is also out on ASU, though some studies show it does improve cartilage integrity.
You may be tempted to go out and buy these supplements to improve your arthritic joints and to relieve some of your pain; however, the Arthritis Foundation strongly recommends you first discuss these supplements with your doctor. Even though they do not require a prescription, supplements can still cause side effects in many people. Additionally, that may interact negatively with certain other medications. These include antidepressants and blood thinners (see references 1).