Joint Supplements: Beyond Glucosamine and Chondroitin

Joint Supplements for wrist and joint pain

Most people know about glucosamine and chondroitin, two popular supplements used to help alleviate joint pain. Both nutrients have been shown to help delay joint disease progression and ease joint pain. But can two ingredients really improve all aspects of your joint health? While these ingredients are an essential part of any joint supplement and have numerous benefits, your joints need more.

For those considering a joint supplement, here is a list of other nutrients that you may not have heard of but that support joint health.

1 – Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a naturally occurring compound found in foods likes

  • fruits,
  • vegetables,
  • grains, and
  • some beverages1.

It is a natural pain killer that also works as an effective anti-inflammatory. Anti-inflammatories help stop inflammation, which can improve

  • stiffness
  • tender or swollen joints, and
  • other joint pain2.

Considered to be one of the least toxic supplements available, MSM has been shown to reduce inflammation and pain, especially in patients with osteoarthritis3,4.

2 – Quercetin

Quercetin belongs to a group of plant pigments called flavonoids. Flavonoids are elements that give many fruits, flowers, and vegetables their vibrant colors5. The great thing about quercetin is that it also works as an antioxidant. Antioxidants scavenge the body and remove harmful particles known as free radicals. Free radicals damage cell membranes, tamper with DNA, and even cause cell death. Antioxidants like quercetin can help neutralize the damaging effects of free radicals5.

Conditions like osteoarthritis can increase the body’s free radical load. For those with these conditions especially, quercetin is a quality alternative whose benefits positively impact joint pain and swelling.

3 – Bromelain

Pineapple has been used for centuries as a medicinal plant, specifically in South and Central America. The first isolation of the nutrient bromelain was recorded by a Venezuelan chemist in 1891 by fermenting pineapple. Why is this important?  Well, bromelain is unique. It is a protein extract derived from pineapple that acts as a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory.

Produced in parts of the world where pineapples are grown, bromelain is extracted from the peel, stem, and leaves6. Studies have shown that bromelain can significantly help with knee pain. And in patients with osteoarthritis, bromelain can help to relieve pain and swelling7.

NOTE: Anyone allergic to pineapples should avoid bromelain as it can cause upset stomach and diarrhea. If you are on blood-thinning medications, consult with your physician before taking bromelain.

4 – SAM-e

SAM-e (pronounced “sammy”) is a natural chemical produced in the body. It is produced in the body from amino acids and has been found to regulate key functions in living cells.

There is evidence that suggests SAM-e is an effective anti-inflammatory and pain reliever for those with joint pain8. Over the last two decades, many large clinical trials have shown SAM-e improves joint health and helps with the symptoms of osteoarthritis8.

SAM-e has also been used to treat depression. In fact, the theory that SAM-e may help joint pain came from studies using SAM-e for depression. Participants in the depression studies with osteoarthritis said their joint symptoms improved9.

NOTE: SAM-e may interact with antidepressant medications, and you should speak to your doctor if you have bipolar disorder or are taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) before taking SAM-e.

5 – Vitamin C

You may already know a lot about Vitamin C. For example, it is known for its positive effects

  • the immune system,
  • cardiovascular health, and
  • skin healing and health.

What you may not know is that a moderate intake of Vitamin C can result in a 3-fold lower risk of osteoarthritis,10 making it an ideal supplement to use. Vitamin C also acts as an antioxidant and gets rid of free radicals in the body. This is particularly important for those with osteoarthritis.

Since vitamin C

  • occurs naturally,
  • has many health benefits, and
  • is generally not associated with any major side effects,

it is a safe supplement for most everyone.

6 – Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 can have a significant effect on the development and progression of osteoarthritis. B12 is essential for normal brain and nervous system function. It has also been shown to reduce homocysteine, an amino acid found at high levels in people with rheumatoid arthritis11.

Sufferers of both osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis should consider B12 when selecting a supplement. Vitamin B12 is found in foods such as

  • eggs,
  • milk,
  • cheese,
  • meat,
  • fish, and
  • poultry.

There is a good chance that those following a healthy diet are already getting enough B12. However, those suffering from joint pain may have increased B12 demands. Finding a supplement that contains vitamin B12 can help reduce joint pain and other complications.


Supplements may help provide some extra relief that prescribed medications do not—one of the above might do the trick for you. Finding a supplement that contains more than just glucosamine and chondroitin is essential when supporting joint conditions. Deficiencies in the nutrients listed above can cause pain, inflammation, and other complications. Before starting any supplement, always discuss it with your doctor first. There can be drug interactions with current medications you might be taking.

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1) Bohlooli, S., Mohammadi, S., Amirshahrokhi, K., Mirzanejad-asl, H., Yosefi, M., Mohammadi-Nei, A., & Chinifroush, M. M. (2013). Effect of Methylsulfonylmethane Pretreatment on Aceta-minophen Induced Hepatotoxicity in Rats . Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences, 16(8), 896–900.

2) Anti-inflammatory Diet & Foods: Health Benefits. WebMD. Published September 11, 2008. 

3) Usha P, Naidu M. Randomised, double-blind, parallel, placebo-controlled study of oral glucosamine, methylsulfonylmethane and their combination in osteoarthritis. Clin Drug Invest 2004;24:353-363.

4)  Kim LS, et al. Efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) in osteoarthritis pain of the knee: a pilot clinical trial. Osteoarthritis Cartilage 2006;14:286-294.

5) University of Maryland Medical Center. Quercetin. Last reviewed on 10/19/2015.

6) Wikipedia. Bromelain. Page last modified on 22 July 2016.

7) – Walker AF, et al. Bromelain reduces mild acute knee pain and improves well-being in a dose-dependent fashion in an open study of otherwise healthy adults. Phytomedicine 2002;9:681-686.

8) Arthritis foundation. SAM-e.

 9) National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine (SAMe): In Depth. NICH staff, reviewed by Craig Hopp, Ph.D., and David Shurtleff, Ph.D., NCCIH. Date Created: October 2012. Last Updated: August 2015.

 10) McAlindon, T. E., Jacques, P., Zhang, Y., Hannan, M. T., Aliabadi, P., Weissman, B., … & Felson, D. T. (1996). Do antioxidant micronutrients protect against the development and progression of knee osteoarthritis?. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 39(4), 648-656.

11) Arthritis foundation. Vitamin B12.


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