Everyone’s heard the saying that you don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it. Pain-free movement is definitely something most people take for granted. When a person suffering hip or leg pain is looking for a natural pain management option, vitamin supplements can provide a host of choices.

Perhaps the most well-known supplement for healthy joints is glucosamine chondroitin.

Glucosamine chondroitin supplements are readily available, often recommended, and given to individuals of all sorts, from old to young and human to animal. Although usually formulated as 1 inclusive supplement, glucosamine and chondroitin are actually 2 separate substances.

Glucosamine sulfate is naturally occurring in the body, as well as in organisms like shellfish. It’s also possible to produce glucosamine in a laboratory. In the body, glucosamine helps produce chemicals that build tendons, cartilage, ligaments, and the fluid that encapsulates joints. Multiple forms of glucosamine are available, but the body also requires sulfate to produce cartilage. For this reason, some researchers think that glucosamine sulfate is superior to other forms, such as glucosamine hydrochloride or N-acetyl glucosamine.

Some research suggests that glucosamine sulfate can relieve osteoarthritis pain just as well as over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). However, while NSAIDs can usually provide relief within 2 weeks, and often much sooner, glucosamine sulfate can take up to 8 weeks to take full effect. Unlike NSAIDs, though, some studies have indicated that glucosamine can slow the progression of joint degeneration, in addition to treating pain, and use of glucosamine might lessen the chance that joint replacement surgery will eventually be required.

Often paired with glucosamine is chondroitin. It, too, occurs naturally in the body and can be found in connective tissues. Research about the benefits of chondroitin is mixed, but some studies suggest that chondroitin supplements are, indeed, helpful in managing pain and increasing joint mobility. Recent studies of the effectiveness of chondroitin have been inconclusive, though, and the best many medical professionals are willing to admit is that it “may reduce arthritis pain slightly.”

Glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin are both very low risk supplements, but people with asthma or shellfish allergies or pregnant women should avoid them. Additionally, there are some serious possible interactions with other drugs, so it’s advisable to talk to a physician before starting a new supplement.

Some herbal supplements can provide relief from arthritis pain.

The boswellia serrata supplement is derived from Indian frankincense, and boswellia resin has been used to treat chronic inflammatory conditions in African and Asian folk medicine for centuries. In addition to its anti-inflammatory abilities, some people believe that boswellia might be effective as a painkiller and for preventing the loss of cartilage in joints. Because of these properties, boswellia supplements have the potential to be extremely beneficial for those suffering from hip and leg pain related to arthritis.

Another herbal supplement, devil’s claw, may also provide relief from osteoarthritis pain. The roots and tubers of the devil’s claw herb are used to make supplements, and research suggests that it can aid in managing osteoarthritis pain. It’s believed that devil’s claw does this by reducing the inflammation that accompanies osteoarthritis and causes pain. Generally, it can take about 16 weeks for devil’s claw supplements to make a noticeable difference in osteoarthritis pain. There is insufficient evidence to suggest whether or not devil’s claw can provide relief from rheumatoid arthritis pain.

Both boswellia serrata and devil’s claw supplements have some risks. Perhaps most notably, boswellia can stimulate menstruation and cause miscarriage, and devil’s claw can cause changes in blood pressure, so neither should be taken by pregnant women. Because both supplements can interact negatively with other drugs, a physician should be consulted before beginning either.

Some supplements can also provide relief from painful leg cramps.

Supplements containing B-vitamins have been found very helpful in treating leg cramps. In a study in Taipei, researchers found that 86% of elderly patients suffering from nocturnal leg cramps experienced relief after taking a supplement containing the following ingredients:

  • 250 mcg of B12
  • 30 mg of B6
  • 5 mg of riboflavin
  • 50 mg of thiamine

Based on these results, some physicians may suggest a supplement containing B-vitamins to counteract persistent leg cramps. These supplements are often labeled as a “Super B-Complex” or, sometimes, “Super B-Complex with Folic Acid.” Folic acid is another B-vitamin, and since riboflavin and thiamine are both B-vitamins, too, they’re also included in these supplements. Like most supplements, there is a risk of drug interaction or side effects from B-complex supplements, but they are quite low-risk.

Supplements containing the drug quinine are also sometimes mentioned for the treatment of nighttime leg cramps, but this is no longer suggested by current medical information. Quinine’s original use was the treatment of malaria. It is a very high-risk drug, with the possibilities of serious drug interactions, abnormal heart rhythms, severe hypersensitivity, or blood platelet disorders that can cause hemorrhaging.

Between 1969 and 2006, 665 serious adverse events were reported for quinine use, including 93 deaths. Until recently, quinine was sometimes prescribed to treat leg cramps, but because of the severe risks, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now only allows the prescription of quinine to treat malaria. Despite this, it is still possible to obtain supplements containing quinine for leg cramps. However, these are not FDA approved. Because of the high risks involved, supplements containing quinine are not recommended.

Have you tried any supplements that relieved your hip or leg pain?

Image by Steven Depolo via Flickr

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