Joint supplements are a way to slow down or possibly even reverse the damage and pain caused by degenerative changes in your joints as you get older.
Typically, an effective joint supplement will include glucosamine, chondroitin, and methylsulfonylmethane (better known as MSM).
Higher-end joint supplements will also include collagen peptides.
Each of these ingredients is thought to help with a variety of joint-related functions, like helping your cartilage retain more water, increase the rate of collagen synthesis in your joints, and fight inflammation.
We’ve looked at what’s on the market and ranked the best joint supplements.
1. VitaBalance ProJoint Plus
To maintain an active lifestyle into retirement and beyond, you need to protect your joints.
That’s why we like VitaBalance ProJoint Plus. No other supplement contains so many ingredients known for improving joint health and mobility.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are key to healthy cartilage function. Boswellia has strong anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties—it may also prevent cartilage loss and stop the autoimmune process in its tracks. Tumeric reduces pain, inflammation, and stiffness. And that’s just a few of its powerful ingredients.
ProJoint Plus also gives you methylsulfonylmethane, quercetin, methionine, and bromelain—all recognized for their ability to reduce inflammation and pain, repair your joints, and get you moving again.
Imagine being able to quit taking the over-the-counter pain meds that are so bad for you! With this powerful supplement, it’s a real possibility.
As one user reports, “My grandma is walking without her walker!!”
The all-around join supplement winner of 2019.
2. EasyFlex Joint Formula by 1MD
For those who’re serious about getting relief for joint pain, EasyFlex is one of the top choices.
It contains three ingredients proven to promote optimal joint health: Longvida® Optimized Curcumin, UC-II® Undenatured type II collagen, and WokVel® Boswellia Serrata.
From alleviating joint pain to providing your body with more energy, EasyFlex is a good daily habit to build in the supplement space.
EasyFlex also has no “additives.” All natural, and made in the USA in an FDA-approved facility.
3. Schiff Move Free Joint Health
Providing a strong dose of all four major joint supplement compounds, Schiff Move Free is the standard-bearer when it comes to mainstream joint health supplements.
Each tablet contains 500 mg of glucosamine, which is matched with 500 mg of MSM alongside chondroitin and hyaluronic acid. For a joint supplement that most closely approximates what is being used in clinical trials to treat osteoarthritis-related joint pain, Schiff Move Free should be your choice.
4. Zenwise Advanced Strength Joint Support
Zenwise makes an excellent joint supplement that covers all of your bases. With regards to glucosamine, the most widely-studied joint supplement, each tablet provides 500 mg, alongside chondroitin, MSM and hyaluronic acid, which are considered the mainstay ingredients in joint supplements.
For fans of herbal remedies, it also includes boswellia and curcumin, which is derived from turmeric. Both of these are anti-inflammatory extracts that may be able to relieve joint pain in the short term.
5. Vimerson Health Glucosamine Chondroitin Turmeric MSM & Boswellia
This joint supplement from Vimerson Health has many of the ingredients you’ll see in other joint supplements, but it adds in quercetin, methionine, and bromelain, three uncommon ingredients that are not as well-researched.
If a standard joint supplement is failing you, it might be worth a shot to try Vimerson Health’s version, because these extras might do the trick for you. For people just looking for a solid source of glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM, it’s pretty good too.
6. BioScience Nutrition Joint Support
BioScience Nutrition has a pretty solid joint supplement that’s got all the usual suspects. The ratio of glucosamine to chondroitin is a little greater than some of the very best supplements, and it doesn’t have any unusual or interesting ingredients, but it’s still a solid joint support supplement with a strong dosage.
7. Universal Nutrition Animal Flex
Animal Flex is unique in that it comes in individual packs of tablets that provide a range of nutrients related to joint function. Universal Nutrition takes wide aim, providing vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, selenium, and manganese, alongside traditional joint supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin.
The wide range of compounds in the supplements might help with recalcitrant cases of joint pain that are not responding to a more standard joint supplement. If you don’t need all the extras, though, there are other supplements that don’t take the firehose approach.
8. Arazo Nutrition Joint Support
Arazo Nutrition Joint Support is a joint supplement that’s very straightforward in its design and provides a wide variety of effective ingredients. It’s based on the same mix of glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM you’ll find in other supplements, along with boswellia and hyaluronic acid as secondary ingredients which are becoming increasingly popular.
9. Doctor’s Best Glucosamine Chondroitin MSM
Doctor’s Best checks most of the right boxes with regards to ingredients–it’s got glucosamine, MSM, and chondroitin–but falls short on dosage.
There’s less than 400 mg of glucosamine per tablet, and the amount of MSM substantially less than that. On top of that, the recommended serving size is a whopping four tablets. The formulation is solid, but with so many better options out there, Doctor’s best can’t exactly compete.
10. New Chapter Zyflamend Joint Supplement
New Chapter’s Zyflamend takes a decidedly different tack. It’s more of an herbal supplement, with no less than ten different herbal extracts. Some, like green tea and turmeric, are familiar, while others are quite obscure.
It almost goes without saying that most of these ingredients don’t have solid clinical evidence behind their usage, so most people should stick with a joint supplement that includes clinically validated ingredients like glucosamine.
However, if glucosamine-based joint supplements are not helping your joint pain, you could try New Chapter Zyflamend to see if it has any effect.
11. Garden of Life Wobenzym N Joint Health
As with many of Garden of Life’s products, their joint supplement is substantially different in formulation from anything else out there. Garden of Life provides a mixture of enzymes from a variety of plants which they claim are formulated to improve your joint function.
This, however, is not supported by independent scientific research, so given that there is plenty of evidence that compounds like glucosamine and chondroitin can improve joint health, Garden of Life should not be your first choice. Stick with what is known to be effective, at least for starters.
12. U.S. Doctors’ Clinical Arthro-7
Arthro-7 is a joint supplement that provides a mixture of compounds intended to improve joint health, but it’s lacking in substance.
For instance, it does not include chondroitin, one of the basic ingredients for the most effective joint health supplements. Further, its active ingredients are mixed into a “proprietary blend” that obscures the actual amount of each ingredient, so it’s impossible to tell how much glucosamine you are getting, or any other ingredient for that matter.
While it’s been favorably reviewed, there are much better alternatives on the market.
Who should buy a joint supplement?
Joint supplements are great for older adults who are starting to get stiff or painful joints, or who have already been diagnosed with inflammatory joint conditions like osteoarthritis.
Joint supplements use multiple ingredients, like glucosamine, MSM, and hyaluronic acid, to reduce inflammation that aggravates joints, and provide nutrients to your body that could slow down the degeneration of cartilage and perhaps even reverse the damage.
Joint supplements have mostly been studied in people who already have joint pain or arthritis pain—it’s less clear if they are useful as a preventative measure in people who are healthy but might develop joint pain in the future.
Extrapolating from research showing that joint supplements that can slow the progress of degenerative joint damage, it seems plausible that a joint supplement would be a good preventative measure if you are currently healthy but want to ward off joint pain in the future.
However, more research needs to be done to confirm whether supplementation can truly prevent joint deterioration before it occurs.
How we ranked
When formulating our rankings of the best joint supplements on the market right now, we looked specifically for supplements that had some of the key ingredients that have been studied for joint pain and found successful.
This includes common ingredients like glucosamine, MSM, and hyaluronic acid, to name just a few. We required that all of the joint supplements that we ranked have more than one of this set of ingredients (if you’re looking for supplements focused on just one ingredient for joint health, check out our MSM and glucosamine rankings pages).
Next up, we checked the dosage of the key ingredients. Things like MSM, glucosamine, and hyaluronic acid have been studied pretty intently, given how serious of a problem osteoarthritis is among the general population, so we tossed any supplements that didn’t fall within the range of active ingredient doses that are typically employed in clinical studies on joint supplements.
At this point, we also tossed out any supplements that had too much in the way of binders, fillers, and unnecessary additives, in keeping with BodyNutrition’s overall philosophy of clean and effective supplement design.
For example, Instaflex Advanced didn’t make the cut because of its inclusion of titanium dioxide and FD&C Blue #1—these synthetic coloring agents don’t make any difference in the efficacy of the supplement, and some activists have raised questions about the safety of these compounds.
From here, we were left with a pretty solid selection of high-quality joint supplements. To differentiate the remaining products, we looked at the quality and the source of the specific ingredients.
Take 1MD EasyFlex—it scored very highly thanks to its attention to the specific types of collagen that it included, as well as using specific types of herbal extracts that were optimized for high bioavailability.
On the other hand, Joint Juice got eliminated here, because it was outclassed on many fronts by other supplements, even though it contained glucosamine and chondroitin. It just didn’t have much in the way of innovative supplements or delivery to beat out its competitors.
Our top-performing supplements provided effective doses of key compounds for joint health, as well as innovative perks like trace minerals and highly bioavailable forms of herbal extracts.
Joint supplements are formulated to fight the inflammation and the chronic degeneration that accompanies joint pain. The most common source of joint pain is arthritis, in which damage and inflammation cause a loss of joint cartilage and increasingly painful and restricted motion.
Because arthritis affects so many people, joint supplements–usually based on cartilage-reinforcing compounds like glucosamine and chondroitin–have been heavily researched for their ability to improve joint function, reduce pain, and potentially even slow down joint damage.
As a result of their wide popularity, joint supplements are some of the best-studied categories of health supplements. The types of formulations investigated are usually those based around glucosamine, chondroitin, boswellia, and MSM, as these are all compounds that have a close biological link with the cartilage that makes up your joints.
Principally, glucosamine-based joint supplements are studied for their benefits related to arthritis, since it is such a public health burden.
However, it’s quite likely that many of the benefits of joint supplement extend to other joint pain-related conditions, because the same kind of damage to cartilage and inflammation that is involved with arthritis is linked to other causes of joint pain as well.
Several joint supplements can help slow the progress of arthritis. In the case of arthritis, joint supplements appear to be effective at both reducing pain and slowing or halting the narrowing of the joint space that is caused by arthritis’ progressive degenerative damage to cartilage.
In 2006, the well-known New England Journal of Medicine published a clinical trial of glucosamine, chondroitin, and the combination of both together in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis (1).
The authors found that the best outcome in terms of pain reduction came when the glucosamine and chondroitin were used in combination, at a dosage ratio of 500 mg of glucosamine to 400 mg chondroitin. This suggests that the two supplements work in combination better than alone to decrease inflammation and joint pain.
A review article by Chad Deal and Roland Moskowitz in the journal Rheumatoid Disease Clinics of North America discusses how chondroitin and glucosamine work together to help reduce pain and slow the progress of joint space narrowing in arthritis patients (2).
The biological mechanism are complex, but the important part is that they do reflect a biologically plausible means by which a joint supplement can actually help improve the functioning of your joint.
The study found that a combination of glucosamine, chondroitin, and quercetin was more effective than a placebo when it comes to reducing the pain related to knee osteoarthritis.
It still hasn’t been demonstrated that quercetin pushes the benefit of a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement beyond its normal level, but still, these initial results are promising.
Glucosamine and chondroitin also appear to be effective at slowing the pace of joint space narrowing–a classic sign of the progression of arthritis.
This was the conclusion of a review article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine which included a large range of smaller studies published since 1980 (3). Glucosamine in particular had a “highly significant” effect on the narrowing of the joint space in arthritis; i.e. it significantly slowed the rate of joint space narrowing.
Chondroitin can reduce pain and improve function, but might not prevent the progress of arthritis. Chondroitin, while effective at improving pain and joint function, did not have an effect on joint space narrowing in this same study.
This suggests that any joint supplement you get should definitely include glucosamine to slow down the root problem in arthritis, the destruction of the cartilage between your bones. It is this process that leads to narrowed joint space and ultimately to greater arthritis pain and activity limitations.
A joint supplement with collagen can help your body increase bone strength and repair cartilage, as well as reduce joint pain. Collagen is a biological compound that is a critical building block for the structural components of your body, whether that’s your bones, skin, or joint cartilage.
While it seems too simple to work, just taking a supplement that contains collagen in its raw form actually appears to help your body increase its structural integrity. That was the conclusion of a paper published in 2016 by two researchers in Brazil who evaluated all of the scientific literature on collagen supplementation between 1994 and 2014 (4).
After analyzing the results of nine different studies, which used animal models, cells under a microscope, and studies in humans, the researchers found that taking hydrolyzed collagen was consistently associated with increases in bone density (in the case of osteoporosis) and improvements in joint cartilage growth (in the case of osteoarthritis).
Moreover, the researchers noted that research also supports the relief of joint pain in cases of arthritis thanks to collagen supplementation. These findings make a strong case that inclusion of collagen in its hydrolyzed form as a potentially beneficial ingredient in a joint supplement.
Even a small amount of hyaluronic acid in a joint supplement can be extremely beneficial. The role of hyaluronic acid in lubricating joints has been known since at least the 1970s, but its exact mechanism of action has only been uncovered relatively recently (5).
Research published in 2005 in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery tested the effects of very low concentrations of hyaluronic acid on the biological activity of collagen cells to discover whether hyaluronic was exerting a direct benefit, or was acting as a cellular signalling indicator (6).
If hyaluronic acid wsa only effective at higher concentrations, this would suggest that the molecule acts directly on cartilage; however, if even a very low concentration of hyaluronic acid generates substantial benefits, it would instead indicate that it switches on beneficial cellular mechanisms that are already in place.
By studying the effects of collagen cells under different concentrations of hyaluronic acid, the researchers were able to show that it was this latter mechanism that was responsible for the benefits of hyaluronic acid.
Exposure to even very low concentrations of hyaluronic acid increases DNA synthesis in collagen, and increases synthesis and deposition of several compounds related to the structure of the collagen matrix within joint cartilage.
These findings suggest that a joint supplement should include hyaluronic acid for optimal efficacy, though only a very small amount may be necessary for joint health benefits.
Large clinical trials have established that joint supplements based on glucosamine and chondroitin are very well-tolerated; the risk of side effects in a joint supplement based on these supplements is exactly the same as the risk of “side effects” from taking a placebo.
Even in people with seafood allergies, glucosamine (which is derived from shrimp) does not contain clinically relevant levels of the allergen that causes the allergy, so they are safe even with a seafood allergy (7).
One case report describes a patient whose asthma was believed to be aggravated by a glucosamine supplement, but aside from this single report, establishing this as a significant cause of side effects is difficult to do (8).
After all, asthma is quite common, and the clinical trials of glucosamine should have uncovered any potentially harmful association.
If you are taking a joint supplement that is based on some of the rarer, less well-studied herbal extracts and ingredients, you may be running a higher risk of side effects. These substances have not been tested in large clinical trials, so their potential for adverse effects remain unknown.
In addition to glucosamine and chondroitin, many joint supplements are starting to include additional compounds that have shown promise when it comes to mending joint pain.
One study published in 2011 in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture examined quercetin, a plant-derived compound that may be useful as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory when treating joint pain (9).
Typical large clinical trials of joint supplements that have found success have used dosages of approximately 500 to 1000 mg of glucosamine and nearly as much chondroitin.
The study mentioned earlier in the New England Journal of Medicine found good results when glucosamine and chondroitin were combined at nearly equal ratios (their study used a 5:4 ratio), and given that the combination of both got better results than glucosamine or chondroitin alone, it suggests that any joint supplement that you use should have both glucosamine and chondroitin at dosage levels that are at least roughly the same.
Q: Do joint supplements really work?
A: A substantial amount of clinical research has been conducted on several key ingredients in joint supplements, including glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, and hyaluronic acid.
The research done to date indicates that these supplements can reduce pain and decrease inflammation with fairly good reliability among people with specific joint disorders, like osteoarthritis.
Some evidence suggests that these compounds can even stimulate the synthesis of new collagen in damaged joints, though these studies are more controversial as it’s more difficult to prove that cartilage integrity has improved.
So, in this sense, joint supplements do stand a good chance of reducing pain and improving your quality of life if you have joint pain, particularly if it’s attributable to conditions like osteoarthritis, which have been studied intently in the context of supplemental solutions for pain and disability.
On the other hand, a joint supplement isn’t likely to be a miracle cure; these supplements won’t be able to reduce decades of damage and degeneration in your joint cartilage.
Q: What is the best joint supplement?
A: In terms of specific ingredients in a joint supplement, we think that glucosamine is perhaps the key, non-negotiable ingredient in a joint supplement.
It’s the most studied of all of the joint supplement ingredients out there, and there’s pretty good evidence from animal models, cells under the microscope, and clinical trials in humans that it improves cartilage integrity, reduces joint pain, and cuts back on inflammation.
That’s why all of our top-ranked joint supplements include a high dose of glucosamine. You could make similar arguments for the efficacy of chondroitin, and perhaps to a lesser extent, MSM and hyaluronic acid.
In practice, a good joint supplement will include all of these, and other ingredients with a good track record of scientific research backing their efficacy for treating joint pain.
Q: Is glucosamine good for joints?
A: Yes, glucosamine has been shown in multiple studies to be an effective way to reduce joint pain. To take just one example, consider a study published in 2003 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (10).
The study recruited people who had regular knee pain, likely as a result of cartilage damage or arthritis. The volunteers were split into two groups, one of which received a placebo, and the other of which received two grams of glucosamine per day.
After twelve weeks, the participant receiving the glucosamine supplement had experienced substantial improvements in joint pain and quality of life compared to the people in the placebo group.
This study was notable because it included a standardized and validated questionnaire to assess knee function at the beginning and end of the study, but there are plenty of other studies that have also found a beneficial effect of glucosamine supplementation on joint health, pain levels, or quality of life.
Q: What do joint supplements do?
A: Joint supplements are over the counter products that include a range of compounds that reduce joint pain, help stimulate cartilage healing, or reduce inflammation inside your joints.
Typically, a high quality joint supplement will include ingredients that accomplish all three of these tasks. If you have a condition that causes joint pain, like an old knee injury or osteoarthritis that is causing degeneration and damage in your cartilage, you’ll have pain as a result of damaged cartilage, plus the inflammation that’s associated with injury and arthritis (keep in mind that the -itis suffix implies an inflammatory root to the problem).
Compounds like hyaluronic acid help stimulate increased cellular activity and repair in your cartilage, while compounds like glucosamine help provide precursors to the building blocks for actually repairing the damage to your cartilage.
An ingredient like collagen, on the other hand, can be directly incorporated into damaged cartilage. So, in terms of the range of biological mechanisms used by various joint supplement ingredients, there’s quite a lot of variety.
However, they all boil down to one of a handful of solutions to joint pain: reducing inflammation, increasing the synthesis of cartilage, or improving joint lubrication and cushioning.
Q: What vitamins are good for joint pain?
A: On the vitamins front, the primary benefit for joint pain will come from vitamins that help reduce inflammation. A condition like osteoarthritis generates quite a bit of inflammation, and arthritis pain is also linked to conditions that are associated with systemic inflammation like obesity.
The causal link between obesity and arthritis was originally thought to be the result of the increased load that joints have to carry (and this does likely contribute to the problem), but researchers noticed that obese people tend to get arthritis at a higher rate even in their fingers, suggesting a link to inflammation instead.
So, a vitamin like vitamin C or vitamin E, which acts as a powerful antioxidant in your body, makes a lot of sense if you have inflammation related joint pain. Interestingly, though it’s not an antioxidant per se, vitamin D appears to play a protective role in preventing or slowing the progress of arthritis as well, according to research published on multiple large cohorts of people (11,12).
Having high vitamin D levels is associated with lower rates of both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis in these studies, and given the dearth of joint supplements that currently incorporate sufficient levels of vitamin D, it might be the most important additional vitamin supplement to take for joint pain.
While the exact link between why higher levels of vitamin D are protective against joint disorders like arthritis has not been established, given the strong evidence for vitamin D and other health benefits, it’s well worth inclusion in your supplementation regimen if you have joint pain or are trying to prevent it.
Joint supplements show a good deal of promise when it comes to reducing joint pain and slowing the progress of arthritis, and may well work even better for lesser joint problems.
The magnitude of improvement is not miraculous, though, so don’t expect a complete reversal of your joint problems. Rather, they can help get you more active and back to enjoying the lifestyle you want to live.
As for dosage, shoot for a glucosamine content of at least 500-1000 mg, and nearly as much chondroitin, if possible.
As for the content of MSM, quercetin, and other compounds that are emerging as potentially useful ingredients in a joint supplement, the research is less clear, but they do appear to hold some promise, so it’s worth trying a joint supplement that has these extras.
For BodyNutrition‘s #1 joint supplement recommendation, click here.