As an orthopedic surgeon with a focus on knee and hip replacement, I get inquiries about the best supplements for treating joint pain on a regular basis. There are several medications and potions available that promise to relieve arthritis pain and improve joint health. Many of these claims are founded on little to no scientific evidence, so when I answer this question, I try to stick with supplements that have the most clinical trial backing.
Collagen powder, fish oil, and turmeric are some of my favorite supplements for joint discomfort. For additional information on the benefits of fish oil and turmeric, please see my other articles on the subject. Regarding collagen supplements, an increasing amount of evidence is being published (see here and here) to support their usage in reducing inflammation, arthritis pain, and even helping to regenerate cartilage.
What is it?
Let’s start with a little anatomy lesson: the main components of our joints are cartilage and bones. Our joints are made of cartilage, which resembles the bright white tips of chicken bones. The collagen protein is the building block of cartilage and bones. The hydrolyzed (broken down with water) collagen included in collagen supplements comes from animal sources, such as cows and marine (fish) species. This is available as capsules or powder. The majority of these mixtures mix easily into practically any beverage and have very little taste. For myself, I combine grass-fed collagen powder, which I get on Amazon, with my regular green smoothie. Approximately $0.50 is spent on each serve.
As I indicated, a number of studies demonstrate the advantages for patients who take a daily dosage of collagen. These include more collagen formation and less pain in the knees and joints. Collagen supplements may improve bone density and overall muscle strength, according to other research—two more advantages that are undoubtedly desirable.
Very few side effects related to using collagen supplements have been documented to date. Most of the complaints are about feeling full or having terrible taste. It appears to be extremely safe overall.
Research suggests a daily intake of 8–12 grams.
Even though I would still like to see more excellent scientific research on the subject, I think collagen can help with joint pain because it is safe, affordable, and effective based on my own experience using it on a daily basis and the experiences of the hundreds of patients I have used it with.