Joint pain can be a frustrating ongoing problem, one that is not easily resolved. Hyaluronic acid injections are sometimes used as a treatment. But this is a painful approach with its own limitations.
Thankfully, research shows that you can use hyaluronic acid for joint pain without relying on injections (1). In this article, we show you how to do so, along with what you can expect.
What is Hyaluronic Acid?
Hyaluronic acid is a compound that’s found in cartilage and the fluid that surrounds the joints (synovial fluid). While the injections are commonly used to decrease joint pain, there is minimal evidence about oral supplementation.
Despite this, hyaluronic acid is often included as a component in joint supplements, along with other compounds like glucosamine.
The Mechanism for Joint Relief
As a key component of joint fluid, it isn’t too surprising that hyaluronic acid has the potential to lower joint pain.
Studies have begun to show some ways that hyaluronic acid can affect the body. One mechanism is the way that hyaluronic acid can bind to a receptor in the intestinal epithelia. It has also been linked to anti-inflammatory action, which is highly relevant for joint pain (2).
While much more research is needed in this area, it is clear that hyaluronic acid can provide benefits.
Research into Hyaluronic Acid Supplements
Most research into hyaluronic acid focuses on injections. Despite this, a growing body of research highlights the potential for supplements to decrease joint pain.
One such study considered the effectiveness of a hyaluronic acid supplement on knee osteoporosis symptoms.
- It used a double-blind placebo-controlled design over a 12-month period.
- Participants in the experimental group took 200 mg of hyaluronic acid each day.
- The study also involved a quadriceps strengthening exercise.
The authors found that the supplementation significantly improved outcomes for patients 70 years old or younger. The 12-month duration shows that long-term supplementation is safe, even at a dose of 200 mg.
Hyaluronic Acid and Knee Pain
Many of the studies into the joints and hyaluronic acid have focused specifically on knee pain. The outcomes below are all from studies that focus on oral supplementation, rather than hyaluronic acid injections (3).
- Studies have often found a significant reduction in joint pain.
- Other outcomes have also been improved, such as muscle function, muscle strength and joint mechanics.
- Improvements have been seen in healthy patients, those with mild pain and those with knee osteoarthritis.
- 80 mg per day is a common dose, although some studies have used larger doses.
- Studies have varied in duration from 8 weeks up to 12 months.
Overall, the research shows strong evidence that hyaluronic acid supplements can decrease pain in the knee, while improving other related areas. Similar benefits are likely to occur for other types of joint pain, despite the lack of research in these areas.
More studies are still needed to determine precise mechanisms and the best doses.
Even so, it’s already clear that hyaluronic acid can offer some benefits. The studies also suggest that it is a safe supplement, which is another reason to consider trying it.
Research has focused on doses of between 80 mg and 200 mg per day. As a result, you’re likely to need at least 80 mg per day to see significant benefits.
This dose is best found in supplements that only contain hyaluronic acid.
Many supplements that use hyaluronic acid as one of many ingredients won’t contain enough of the compound to provide benefits. Additionally, some supplements won’t list the dosage, as they use a proprietary formula.
Even if hyaluronic acid is first on the ingredients list, it’s best to focus on supplements that clearly state they have at least 80 mg of hyaluronic acid per dose.
What About Food?
You can also find hyaluronic acid foods. These help to promote hyaluronic acid production in your own body. They’re particularly relevant for maintaining joint health and include examples like bone broth and leafy greens.
However, the increases in hyaluronic acid production may not be enough to lower joint pain. This is partly because the body has various systems to regulate the production of compounds. As such, people with significant joint pain may need to use supplements to see benefits.
Research clearly shows that supplementing with hyaluronic acid may significantly decrease joint pain, regardless of your health. The approach is much less stressful and less painful than relying on hyaluronic acid injections, yet offers many of the same benefits.
The studies show a reduction in pain, rather than its removal. This means that you may still experience discomfort. If so, there are other supplements and approaches to consider. For example, ashwagandha may also decrease joint pain, while turmeric has been linked to decreased inflammation.
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