Joint and muscle ache supplements

by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.

Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit

A regular exercise program is good for you. And proper nutritional supplements are too.

The non-steroidal and-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)have potential side effects like stomach ulcers, kidney and liver dysfunction.

Glucosamine/ Chondroitin Sulfate

These two excellent alternatives to NSAIDs belong to a class called glycosaminoglycans, which are natural building blocks used to build and repair joint cartilage and fascia, another type of connective tissue. Glucosamine and chondroitin are used to build the matrix or "ground substance" of joint cartilage, with collagen being the other major component. Studies have shown glucosamine and chondroitin to be effective with arthritis.

Unlike fish oil extracts, which reduce inflammation, glucosamine and chondroitin assist the rebuilding process of cartilage. As a result, glucosamine and chondroitin can be added to a supplementation regimen that includes fish oil extracts and anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen.

Chondroitin is made up of chains of galactosamine (made from glucosamine) and glucuronic acid (made from glucose). It's good in combination with glucosamine at renewing joint cartilage and reducing symptoms of arthritis.

Neither supplement works quickly; they both generally take about 2-4 months to work. Take 500 mg of glucosamine or 400 mg of chondroitin three times per day for several months for best results. Side effects are rare but include stomach upset, skin rash, an increase in insulin levels in diabetics and possibly increased insulin resistance. People who are allergic to shellfish also might want to avoid these preparations.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation.

One of the best omega-3 supplements for joints is fish oil which is rich in the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both reduce inflammation. As a result, fish oil is a great supplement for reducing joint pain and preventing wear and tear. A number of clinical trials have found that about 6 grams per day of 30% omega-3 fish oil extract reduces symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. That's why eating fish at least twice per week -- especially oily, cold-water varieties like salmon, trout and water-packed tuna -- or taking fish oil capsules is recommended.

Flaxseed oil is another good source of omega-3 fatty acid althopugh it is not as potent.

Tell your doctor if you're on blood-thinning medication or drugs for arthritis, as both fish or flaxseed oils may increase risk of bruising or bleeding when mixed with blood thinners.


SAMe (S-adenosyl-methionine) is a co-enzyme used by the body for joint repair. SAMe has both anti-inflammatory and joint-rebuilding effects, and shows promise as a supplement for aches and pains.

Since inflammation and the free radicals that come from it are responsible for much of the joint damage post-exercise, SAMe appears to protect joints as well as help rebuild them. Studies suggest that the supplement reduces joint degeneration and arthritis

Normally, 800-1,200 mg of SAMe per day is used for achy joints and/or inflammation. Since SAMe’s effectiveness is destroyed by light, buy tablets that are individually wrapped in foil or housed in an opaque (not see-through) bottle.


Also called betaine or trimethylglycine, TMG is related to SAMe in that it may help rebuild cartilage while also having anti-inflammatory effects. TMG is made from beet sugar. TMG regenerates SAMe.

Roughly, 300-500 mg per day of betaine or TMG has often been taken in conjunction with SAMe. No side effects have been reported at the recommended doses.


1,800 mg of fish oil omega-3 fatty acids.

1,500 tag of glucosamine sulfate as three 500 mg doses throughout the day. Never economize on glucosamine or chondroitin.

This joint cocktail is perfect for an active person. Chondroitin or glucosamine might be able to take the place of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for some people.

Other supplements to consider for any active person should include 450 mg of magnesium, 250 mg of Vitamin C, and 1,000 mg of calcium (or two servings of fat-free dairy products). All three of these nutrients are essential for joint health and repair, and should be taken daily. In addition, 400 I.U. of Vitamin E is also very protective and works well with fish oil concentrates, for example.

Optional: If all else fails, try adding 300-500 mg of trimethylglycine (TMG or betaine), 800-1,200 mg of SAMe and a B complex vitamin that includes folic acid, Vitamin [B12] and Vitamin [B6] daily.


Brief, A.A., et al. Use of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate in the management of osteoarthritis. Journal of the American Academy of Orthopsedic Surgeons 9(2):71-78, 2001.

Dingle, J.T. The effects of NSAID on the matrix of human articular cartilages. Zeitschrift fur Rheumatologie 58(3):125-129, 1999.

Fetrow, C.W., Avila, J.R. Efficacy of the dietary supplement S-adenosyl-L-methionine. Annals of Pharmacotherapy 35(11):1,414-1,425, 2001.

Tidow-Kebritchi, S., Mobarhan, S. Effects of diets containing fish oil and vitamin E on rheumatoid arthritis. Nutrition Reviews 59(10):335-338, 2001.

Trappe, T.A., et al. Effect of ibuprofen and acetaminophen on postexercise muscle protein synthesis. American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism 282:E551-E556, 2002.

Zollei, I., et al. Betaine-palmitate reduces acetylsalicylic acid-induced gastric damage in rats. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology 36(8):811-816, 2001.

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