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Like many people with arthritis joint pain, you may have considered taking vitamins and supplements that promise to ease joint pain. And it's true -- the right ones could offer greater control of osteoarthritis (OA) or rheumatoid arthritis (RA) joint pain.

The problem is -- too many products advertised for arthritis don't measure up. In fact, it's important to steer clear of some supplements advertised as arthritis cures -- because they can actually be harmful.

Here's what you should ask: Is there any science backing the claim? Is this a "secret formula" that has not been shared with scientific peers? Is this product made by a large company with strict quality controls? Can I purchase this product from a large pharmacy or health food chain? Is there a USP (United States Pharmacopoeia) notation on the product signifying a high standard?

Arthritis Advice

For advice on arthritis joint pain -- and supplements that can help -- WebMD turned to Sharon Plank, MD, an integrative medicine physician with the University of Pittsburgh Medical School Center for Integrative Medicine. Plank trained under Andrew Weil, MD, a pioneer in integrative medicine at the University of Arizona.

"You've got to take a whole-body approach to treating arthritis pain," Plank tells WebMD. "Lifestyle is huge. It's important to start by losing weight if you're obese. Regular exercise will help strengthen muscles that support joints and keep joints flexible. The anti-inflammatory diet is also extremely important -- those wonderful omega-3 fatty acids."

Medications can help ease arthritis joint pain, and "for some people, supplements provide that extra relief that drugs can't," she says. "There is certainly a place for supplements." However, always discuss these supplements with your doctor before taking them, as there can be drug interactions, allergy problems, or harmful side effects, she cautions.

Plank recommends:

  • Chondroitin sulfate
  • Glucosamine sulfate
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D3
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Omega-3
  • Green tea

More good options:

  • SAMe
  • MSM
  • Stinging nettle
  • Bromelain
  • Vitamin E
  • Devil's claw

It’s important to note, however, that supplements can have side effects, and some may interfere with medications. It’s critical to discuss any supplements with your doctor to learn whether they are safe for you, and the correct dose for you.

Glucosamine/Chondroitin for Joint Pain

Glucosamine is found naturally in the body's joint cartilage -- helping keep it healthy and lubricated. The shells of shrimp, lobster, and crab provide the basis for these supplements. Glucosamine is believed to help slow deterioration of cartilage, relieve arthritis joint pain, and improve joint mobility.

Chondroitin is also found naturally in cartilage and bone. Chrondroitin sulfate supplements are derived from cow trachea or pork byproducts. Chondroitin is said to reduce joint pain and inflammation, improve joint function, and slow progression of osteoarthritis. Most studies have been done on knee arthritis.

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