How B Vitamins Work for Joint Health
It’s not entirely clear how the B vitamins work precisely for joint pain and stiffness, but experts suspect that each may target inflammation, nerve function, or bone growth. It follows that a combination of the most effective B vitamins (a Vitamin B complex) may help to relieve an array of osteoarthritis symptoms.
Vitamin B3, or niacinamide, seems to be particularly helpful in reducing pain and swelling, especially in the hands. Vitamin B6 is vital for healthy nerve function, and may also reduce inflammation in the joints. As for vitamin B12 (cobalamin), there’s a good body of research to suggest that this compound plays an important role in bone-metabolism.
OA patients typically have low levels of vitamin B9, commonly known as folic acid. Adding folate to your treatment plan will often reduce joint symptoms, plus it’s known to keep your blood healthy and protect your heart – an important preventative measure to take as you age.
Guidelines for Vitamin B Supplements
Since most arthritis patients – and the general population, for that matter -- are lacking in vitamin B6 and B9, the National Academies of Science (NAS) recommends a vitamin B complex for everyone over the age of 50.
Daily supplementation is key, since all B vitamins (with the exception of vitamin B12) are processed quickly and flushed out through the urine. Increasing and maintaining your B vitamin levels will encourage your body to produce the proteins that rebuild cartilage.
Taking a B complex is often easier than trying to take the right amount of each of the eight B vitamins. Experts stress the importance of balance: it’s possible that taking individual B vitamins in isolation can lead to a metabolic imbalance, and even a risk of nerve damage.
Side Effects and Precautions to Keep in Mind
B vitamins and complexes are generally deemed safe, and they’re widely available without a prescription, but you can get too much of a good thing. As with most supplements, you must stay within the recommended daily amounts to avoid unpleasant or dangerous side effects, like:
- Nausea and diarrhea
- Liver damage and ulcers (a rare consequence of too much vitamin B3)
Fortunately, no serious drug interactions have been reported, which means that you can likely introduce B vitamins to your current OA treatment plan without any trouble.
However, your lifestyle and current disease management plan can sometimes interact with a change in supplements or medication. For instance, consuming alcohol with vitamin B3 could increase your chances of liver damage, and some people notice minor reactions when they take B3 with aspirin or nicotine patches.