Joint Supplements for Arthritis

When it comes to choosing a joint supplement, there is an ever-increasing number of products that sometimes promise more than they deliver. In fact, an independent analysis conducted by Consumer Reports in 2013 reported of the 16 popular joint supplements, no less than seven — 44% — fell short of the key ingredient amounts listed on the product label.

Supplement manufacturers are not subject to the same strict regulations as the pharmaceutical industry, either in terms of clinical research, product marketing, or quality assurance. To this end, you need to take a guarded stance when considering a manufacturer’s claims, particularly when the words "proven" or "evidence" are used.

This is not to suggest that the products have no value but rather that you need to make an informed choice when deciding whether or not to use a joint supplement.

In terms of quality, the Arthritis Foundation recommends selecting products from the most reputable national brands and being wary of low-cost alternatives that claim to have the same ingredients at a fraction of the price.

The following are 15 joint supplements that have undergone testing and approval by one of three independent, U.S.-based consumer watchdogs (U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International,


Glucosamine Sulfate

Glucosamine supplement pills in a patient's hand

Keith Getter / Getty Images

Glucosamine is a substance naturally produced by the body from glucose and the amino acid glutamine. Glucosamine is needed to synthesize glycosaminoglycan, a type of molecule used in the formation and repair of cartilage and other body tissues. 

Glucosamine sulfate supplements are taken on the presumption that the oral ingestion of the products will raise glucosamine levels in the blood to such levels as to increase the repair (or even reverse) joint damage.

While the evidence in support of the hypothesis is largely mixed, the European GUIDE (Glucosamine Unum In Die Efficacy) study concluded that glucosamine was as effective in relieving joint pain as Tylenol (acetaminophen) but questioned whether it actually improved joint function when used on its own.

Reputable glucosamine-only supplements include:

  • NOW Foods Glucosamine
  • BulkSupplements Pure Glucosamine Sulfate

The recommended dose of glucosamine in 1,500 milligrams per day for one to two months. Ongoing treatment may be considered if the results are favorable.


Chondroitin Sulfate

Chondroitin supplement bottle


Chondroitin is the most abundant glycosaminoglycan in cartilage and is partly responsible for the resiliency of cartilage. Chondroitin is also important in preventing the action of enzymes that can destroy cartilage. 

Chondroitin sulfate supplements are intended to enhance the shock-absorbing properties of collagen and prevent the further breakdown of cartilage. They do so by increasing water retention in cartilage cells and, when used with glucosamine, may even help reverse cartilage loss.

A 2017 study published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases even suggested that 800 mg of chondroitin sulfate taken daily was equal in providing joint pain relief as a daily 200-mg dose of Celebrex (celecoxib).

Chondroitin is most commonly taken in combination with glucosamine. Reputable brands include:

  • Kirkland Signature Glucosamine & Chondroitin
  • Spring Valley Triple-Strength Glucosamine Chondroitin
  • Osteo Bi-Flex Joint Health
  • Nature’s Bounty Glucosamine Chondroitin Complex

The recommended dose of chondroitin is 400 mg taken three times a day for one to two months. Ongoing treatment may be considered if the results are favorable. 


Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)

MSM supplement bottle

Photo from Amazon

Methylsulfonylmethane, also known as MSM, is believed by some to support the health of ligaments (the fibrous connective tissues that hold a joint together). Research suggests it also may help address inflammation and joint pain.

While glucosamine and chondroitin have limited clinical research to support their claims, MSM has even less. Those who endorse its use assert that the sulfur contained in MSM helps the body maintain ligament flexibility and strength.

While MSM is available as an individual supplement, it is most commonly included as part of a combination supplement containing either glucosamine, chondroitin, or both.

Reputable brands include:

  • GNC Triple Strength
  • The Vitamin Shoppe Joint Solution
  • Nature's Bounty Extra-Strength Complex
  • Nutramax Cosamin DS
  • Schiff Move-Free Advanced Triple Strength
  • Schiff Glucosamine Plus MSM
  • Healthy Joints System Glucosamine Chondroitin with MSM
  • Bluebonnet Vegetarian Glucosamine MSM
  • Solgar Glucosamine MSM

MSM is generally prescribed as a 500-mg dose taken twice or three times daily for one to two months. Ongoing treatment may be considered if the results are favorable. 

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Article Sources
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