MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane): Limited Research
The sulfur compound MSM is found naturally in the body and in animals, fruits, vegetables, and grains. The claim is that MSM reduces joint pain and inflammation. MSM contains sulfur, which the body needs to form connective tissue. MSM also seems to act as a painkiller by quieting nerve impulses that transmit pain.
One 2006 study of 50 adults with osteoarthritis of the knee showed that 6,000 milligrams of MSM daily reduced pain and improved physical function -- without major side effects. However, no large studies comparing MSM to placebo have been performed, and more research is needed to determine the true effect of MSM on osteoarthritis.
Stinging Nettle: Folk Remedy for Arthritis Symptoms
Stinging nettle is a stalk-like plant found in Europe and North America; it is widely used as a folk remedy to treat arthritis symptoms throughout Europe and Australia.
The leaves and stems are processed into tea, capsules, tablets, tinctures, and extracts -- and are also found in whole-leaf form. The claim is that stinging nettle reduces inflammation, aches, and joint pains of arthritis. This is not to be confused with stinging nettle root, which is used to treat prostate problems.
Preliminary evidence suggests that certain compounds in the nettle plant help reduce inflammation and modify the immune system.
A German study of hox alpha (a new stinging nettle extract) identified a substance that worked as an anti-inflammatory in joint diseases. A Turkish study showed stinging nettle's painkilling, anti-microbial, and anti-ulcer activities.
However, evidence supporting the use of stinging nettle for arthritis is unclear and conflicting. More research is needed to determine its true effectiveness.
Lifestyle Solutions for Arthritis Joint Pain
Supplements can't solve the whole problem of arthritis joint pain. Some people have a genetic predisposition to developing joint cartilage problems. However, lifestyle factors make the risk worse for them -- and for everyone. Obesity and athletic injuries are the top two reasons people develop knee and hip arthritis.
A variety of treatments help relieve joint pain -- medications, removing joint fluid, crutches and canes, even surgery. Getting your weight under control -- and getting the right kind of exercise -- are also key.
Lose weight: Obesity increases the stress on your joints -- as well as on your entire body. It also decreases circulation in the body, Plank says. "That cuts off blood supply to all the organs." When you lose weight, you increase circulation plus take the stress off the painful joint -- all of which eases pain.
Exercise: Exercise helps you shed pounds. It also improves joint flexibility. Plus, exercise helps maintain strength in muscles and tissues supporting the joint, Plank says. "Physical therapy, massage, water aerobics, gentle yoga, tai chi are good -- anything to make the tissue surrounding the inflamed joint strong enough to support it." Consider getting professional advice about the right kinds and amount of exercise for your body type and particular joint issues.