How Effective Is Instaflex in Treating Joint Pain?

Spotlight on a Best-Selling Joint Supplement

a doctor checking knee pain
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A ​dietary supplement meant to improve joint health, known as Instaflex, has been touted in television testimonials from well-known athletes, such as professional football quarterback Doug Flutie and U.S. women's soccer player Carla Overbeck.

Instaflex is an expensive product, but one that many athletes swear by. Do the purported benefits justify the price tag? And what does the research actually tell us?

Recent Clinical Research

In 2013, researchers at the Appalachian State University Human Performance Lab in North Carolina investigated the use of Instaflex Joint Support in 100 men and women, aged 50 to 75, who were given three capsules daily for eight weeks.

When compared to a placebo, Instaflex did appear to improve stiffness scores as well as the person's ability to perform daily activities. While positive, the conclusion was primarily based on the individual's self-reported perception of improvement.

When other, more measurable diagnostics were included, such as performance on a six-minute walk test or blood tests used to measure inflammation, no improvements were seen.

The study results suggest that those who reported a positive response to Instaflex may have experienced, at least in part, the placebo effect, whereby a person's belief in a curative treatment often translates to perceived improvements in health.

Available Formulations

There are several formulations of Instaflex, each with different ingredients commonly found in other joint and muscle supplements. These include:

  • Instaflex Joint Support is said to provide relief after seven days but may take up to three months to receive the reported benefits. Three capsules are to be taken either in the morning or evening. They contain eight supplements: glucosamine sulfate, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), white willow bark extract, ginger root concentrate, Boswellia serrata extract, turmeric root extract, cayenne, and hyaluronic acid.
  • Instaflex Bone Support also has a recommended daily dosage of three capsules per day and contains six active ingredients: calcium carbonate, vitamin D3, ipriflavone, horsetail herb, glucosamine sulfate, and silica.
  • Instaflex Muscle Support is said to reduce muscle cramps, decrease soreness, and hasten muscle healing. Three capsules are to be taken daily, each of which includes vitamin D3, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and L-glutamine monohydrate.
  • Instaflex Advanced is taken as a single daily capsule and contains turmeric extract, resveratrol, Boswellia serrata extract, undenatured collagen, hyaluronic acid, and black pepper extract.

Review of Ingredients

Many of the key ingredients in Instaflex formulations are found and promoted in an array of health and sports supplements. There remains debate as to whether these ingredients deliver the results they promise. Among them:

  • Glucosamine sulfate is a substitute form of a substance found in cartilage and synovial fluids that lubricate joints. The supplement form is derived from shellfish. The effectiveness of glucosamine has been debated for years, and it is not recommended by the American Academy of Osteopathic Surgeons for treating knee osteoarthritis.
  • Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is normally derived from the plants, fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy products we consume. Studies have found that MSM provided modest relief of pain and swelling but did not relieve joint stiffness.
  • Willow bark dates back to 400 B.C. when patients were advised to chew on it to decrease inflammation and fever. The bark of white willow contains salicin, a chemical used to develop aspirin in the 1800s.
  • Ginger root may have anti-inflammatory effects due to inhibition of enzymes which trigger an inflammatory response. However, there is no evidence to support the use of ginger to treat osteoarthritis.
  • Boswellia serrata has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. An enriched extract of the plant has been found to have anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties with no significant side effects. A number of studies have shown that Boswellia serrata does offer a statistically significant reduction in pain and statistically significant improvements in function.
  • Cayenne is a spice derived primarily from Capsicum annum and Capsicum frutescens, the active ingredient of which is called capsaicin. Most studies involving capsaicin have shown that the chemical can reduce pain when used in topical formulations. It is unclear if an oral formulation would offer the same benefit.
  • Hyaluronic acid is said to have a protective effect on cartilage and may reduce the production of chemicals involved in inflammation. Injections of hyaluronic acid in people with joint pain have not proved to be long-lasting and are more often used to buy time before knee replacement surgery. It's unlikely that an oral form will provide targeted relief.

Product Warnings

Instaflex Joint Support contains ingredients derived from crustaceans, therefore people with allergies to shellfish are advised to avoid the product.

The manufacturers recommend you see a doctor before using any over-the-counter supplement if you are pregnant, nursing, taking other medication, or have a history of heart conditions.

Finally, keep in mind that, while Instaflex products are unlikely to cause harm (assuming you're aware of the allergy warning above), reports on its effectiveness are largely anecdotal and not backed up by study findings.

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Article Sources

  1. Nieman DC, Shanely RA, Luo B, Dew D, Meaney MP, Sha W. A commercialized dietary supplement alleviates joint pain in community adults: a double-blind, placebo-controlled community trial. Nutr J. 2013;12(1):154. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-154

  2. Instaflex. Products

  3. Butawan M, Benjamin RL, Bloomer RJ. Methylsulfonylmethane: Applications and Safety of a Novel Dietary Supplement. Nutrients. 2017;9(3) doi:10.3390/nu9030290

  4. Siddiqui MZ. Boswellia serrata, a potential antiinflammatory agent: an overview. Indian J Pharm Sci. 2011;73(3):255-61. doi:10.4103/0250-474X.93507

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