As an endurance athlete, you are likely no stranger to joint pain.
Runners, cyclists, triathletes, and any other athlete (from weekend warriors to highly trained pros) who engage in high-impact, repetitive motion sports often experience joint pain.
Especially as they age. Endurance athletes over the age of 35 are particularly susceptible to joint pain due to natural causes. (COSCA)
This is significant because many endurance enthusiasts are in the master class of athletes over 40. Therefore we can assume that the majority of endurance athletes are either already struggling with joint pain or are at risk in the future.
There are a few supplements and ingredients that have been proven to improve joint health, and hyaluronic acid is one of them.
What is hyaluronic acid?
Hyaluronic acid is a jack of all trades. It’s found in your skin and appears to have some part to play in cell division and movement. Because of how it interacts with epithelial tissue, hyaluronic acid is a main ingredient in “wrinkle-reducing” lotions.
It’s also widely used in eye surgeries to replace any fluids lost during procedures.
But most importantly, hyaluronic acid is found in synovial joints.
These include joints like your knees, hips, wrists, and shoulders. Here, it acts as a lubricant, helping your joints articulate without causing friction.
Hyaluronic acid also protects and coats the cells of joint cartilage.
What does hyaluronic acid do?
Hyaluronic acid is found in synovial fluid, which is a viscous solution that protects bone and cartilage in the joint from rubbing against each other.
Basically, it’s bike chain lube for your bones.
Exercise promotes normal degradation of hyaluronic acid causing several diseases related to joints. (Tamer)
Hyaluronic acid benefits
Hyaluronic acid can reduce wrinkles
Because of hyaluronic acid’s incredible ability to retain moisture, it’s had a profound impact on the cosmetic industry. An added benefit of your joint health supplement could be reduced wrinkles. (Oe, M. et al.)
Hyaluronic acid can regenerate bone tissue
Hyaluronic acid has been shown to regenerate bone tissue, although this does require a topical application. However, hyaluronic acid may help dentists keep our mouths cavity-free. (Cai, Z., et al)
Hyaluronic acid reduces joint pain and friction
Taking hyaluronic acid as a capsule could reduce friction in joints, and therefore reduce pain. Regularly taking hyaluronic acid may help athletes reduce pain in critical areas like the knees, hips, wrists, and shoulders.
What does the research say about hyaluronic acid?
While a lot of research has been done on hyaluronic acid, only a portion of it concerns hyaluronic acid and joint health.
Still less has been performed on healthy individuals, and instead usually involves patients suffering from osteoarthritis. And even less research has been done on hyaluronic acid when ingested orally.
This means two things:
- One, because of the vast amount of research on hyaluronic acid, it’s considered a safe supplement with no risk of interactions with other compounds.
- Two, a lot more research is needed on the benefits of hyaluronic acid when ingested orally by healthy participants.
Let’s take a look at what we do know.
Researchers are confident that hyaluronic acid reduces joint pain in knees.
Doctors regularly prescribe a hyaluronic acid injection to osteoarthritic patients who haven’t been able to manage their pain with NSAIDs. It is now an established practice for reducing knee pain and can be effective for a few months.
Of course, this is a painful, time-consuming, and inconvenient procedure. What’s more, it’s really only an option for those who are in enough pain to warrant the injections.
There is a big incentive to find an alternative to injections, and as such, researchers are looking into its efficacy when ingested orally.
Oral ingestion of hyaluronic acid has been proven to mildly reduce pain.
A review that analyzed data from 13 randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trials found that hyaluronic acid helped treat symptoms “associated with synovitis, and particularly, knee pain, relief of synovial effusion or inflammation, and improvement of muscular knee strength.” (Oe M, et al.)
The researchers concluded that hyaluronic acid (HA) is a safe way to reduce mild knee pain
Stating, “HA as a dietary supplement exhibits mild efficacy and no side effects. By utilizing these characteristics, HA dietary supplements provide at least some possibility for the treatment and prevention of serious conditions in patients with OA exhibiting mild knee pain.” (Oe M, et al.)
Another placebo-controlled study evaluated chronic pain levels in 72 participants found that pain levels decreased after ingesting hyaluronic acid.
Not only did participants report less pain, but they took less pain medication than the placebo.
Researchers reported, “The pain reduction during the initial 2 weeks was associated with significant reduction in the use of pain medication (P<.05). Consumption of an oral liquid formula containing high-molecular-weight hyaluronan was associated with relief of chronic pain.” (Jensen)
Many other studies reported mild improvements to pain in osteoarthritic patients after taking hyaluronic acid orally.
Effective hyaluronic acid dosage
For joint health, try a dose between 60 to 200 mg once daily with a meal.
When to take hyaluronic acid
For best results, take daily. Time of day does not matter.
Is hyaluronic acid safe? Yes!
Hyaluronic acid is safe! There are no known adverse side effects to taking hyaluronic acid.
Hyaluronic acid interactions with other compounds
There are no known adverse interactions between hyaluronic acid and other compounds.
Where to buy hyaluronic acid supplements
You can find an oral dose of hyaluronic acid as a supplement in your local health food store.
However, because of the mild effects of hyaluronic acid, it’s much better when added to a comprehensive joint supplement. You can find hyaluronic acid dosed at 100 mg in JointElite.
About the author:
- Masuko K, Minako Murata, Kazuo Yudoh, Tomohiro Kato, Hiroshi Nakamura Anti-inflammatory effects of hyaluronan in arthritis therapy: Not just for viscosity. Int J Gen Med. 2009; 2: 77–81. (2009)
- COSCA D, et al. University of California Davis Sports Medicine Program, Sacramento, California. Am Fam Physician. 2007 Jul 15;76(2):237-244.
- Oe M, Toshiyuki Tashiro, Hideto Yoshida, Hiroshi Nishiyama, Yasunobu Masuda, Koh Maruyama, Takashi Koikeda, Reiko Maruya, Naoshi Fukui. Oral hyaluronan relieves knee pain: a review. Nutr J. 2016; 15: 11. Published online 2016 Jan 27.
- Tamer Mahmoud Tamer. Hyaluronan and synovial joint: function, distribution and healing
- Interdiscip Toxicol. 2013 Sep; 6(3): 111–125. Published online 2013 Sep.
- Jensen GS, Attridge VL, Lenninger MR, Benson KF. Oral intake of a liquid high-molecular-weight hyaluronan associated with relief of chronic pain and reduced use of pain medication: results of a randomized, placebo-controlled double-blind pilot study. J Med Food. 2015 Jan;18(1):95-101
- Bellar, A., Kessler, S. P., Obery, D. R., Sangwan, N., Welch, N., Nagy, L. E., … Motte, C. D. L. (2019). Safety of Hyaluronan 35 in Healthy Human Subjects: A Pilot Study. Nutrients, 11(5), 1135.
- Oe, M., Sakai, S., Yoshida, H., Okado, N., Kaneda, H., Masuda, Y., & Urushibata, O. (2017). Oral hyaluronan relieves wrinkles: a double-blinded, placebo-controlled study over a 12-week period. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, Volume 10, 267–273.
- Cai, Z., Feng, Y., Li, C., Yang, K., Sun, T., Xu, L., … Chiu, K.-Y. (2018). Magnoflorine with hyaluronic acid gel promotes subchondral bone regeneration and attenuates cartilage degeneration in early osteoarthritis. Bone, 116, 266–278. doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2018.08.015