Americans are in pain, and a large percentage of this pain comes from weakness and deterioration in the joints. According to the National Health Interview Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) back in 20006, 30% of all adults in the country experienced some form of joint discomfort over the previous 30 days . Knee pain, or osteoarthritis, was the culprit for 18% of the respondents, followed by shoulder pain (9%) and hip pain (7%).
If you or a loved one fall into this category, you need to know there are many things you can do to alleviate the pain and discomfort in your joints – without having to resort to pain meds (which only mask the problem). One huge step in the right direction is to up your collagen levels, as collagen can work to lubricate and fortify your joints on all levels.
Studies Show: Collagen Supplementation Helps Joint Pain in Athletes
If you love your morning jog, this is especially important information. Did you know that the condition called “Runner’s Knee,” otherwise known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, affects one in four physically active people? What’s more, if left unchecked, patellofemoral pain syndrome can lead to patellofemoral osteoarthritis–and excruciating pain.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to stop exercising by any means! Science is discovering what causes Runner’s Knee in the first place  and what you can do about it.
Recommended go-to strategies include:
- Changes in posture
- Losing weight
- Doing targeted stretching routines
- Eating an anti-inflammatory diet
Plus, as mentioned earlier, upping the collagen level in the body.
The link between collagen levels and knee pain alleviation in athletes has been verified by science, and it just makes sense. Most athletes work their bodies hard. Especially if you are a “weekend warrior,” it might not take much to overdo it and end up injured. Up to 90% of all of our tendons, cartilages, and ligaments are made from collagen, especially Type II, which is often called “cartilage collagen.”
At the same time, as far back as the 1970s, studies found a correlation between aging and lower collagen production as well as greater malfunctions in the way collagen molecules work in the body (a process known as “crosslinking ). Collagen deficiencies as we age show up first in the skin , but it also affects joints, cartilage, bones, and even internal organs.
If you are a physically-active person over the age of 30, you have more of a reason to pay attention to your collagen levels. But even if you are still part of the “under 30” crowd, ignoring that knee pain after a run could lead to cartilage breakage and disability in the long run for you too.
The evidence is out there as to how upping your own collagen levels can help.
One of the most cited studies to date is from researchers at Penn State University in 2008. In this clinical trial, 147 relatively healthy male and female collegiate athletes with no signs of joint disease, but who occasionally experienced joint pain, were divided into two groups.
The first group received a collagen hydrolysate supplement for 24 weeks. The other received a placebo. Collagen hydrolysate is a type of supplement where collagen molecules are broken down into peptides (small groupings of amino acids) for better digestion and absorption.
The results of the study indicated that the individuals who consumed the collagen supplement had reduced pain and inflammation and increased mobility compared to those who did not.
According to the study investigators, “The results of this study have implications for the use of collagen hydrolysate to support joint health and possibly reduce the risk of joint deterioration in a high-risk group.”
Drinking bone broth on a regular basis is another go-to strategy for soothing Runner’s Knee. Making a broth from organic, grass-fed beef or chicken bones ensures you are getting a lot of collagen in your diet (in the form of gelatin, which is what collagen morphs into when it is cooked) as well as many other nutrients. This includes glucosamine, chondroitin, hyaluronic acid, and essential minerals that all work in synergy with collagen for vitality and health of the whole body.
Can Collagen Help With Osteoarthritis?
An estimated 27 million Americans have osteoarthritis (OA) ; that’s about eight percent of the U.S. population! Osteoarthritis is defined as “inflammation of the joints” and is considered a degenerative disease that causes the breakdown of cartilage in between the joints.
Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body, but the most common is osteoarthritis of the knee. If you are among those who suffer from any form of osteoarthritis, then you know how devastatingly painful it can be!
In the most severe cases, joint replacement surgery is the best option for osteoarthritis. This may be avoided, however, if action is taken early. Again, eating an anti-inflammatory diet can help, according to the Arthritis Foundation . So can stretching, losing weight to put less stress on the joints, and reducing stress .
According to the latest studies, targeted collagen supplementation can also help to ease the swelling, pain, and stiffness associated with OA. A large-scale meta-analysis sponsored by the University of Sydney in Australia concluded that collagen supplementation was more successful than any other supplements they studied at reducing pain in osteoarthritis patients .
Another study published in Nutrition Journal 2016  found that after 180 days, those who took a specific collagen Type II supplement experienced significantly better relief from pain, stiffness, and function than the placebo group and a slightly higher level of comfort than those who took a chondroitin supplement.
These studies are just the latest in a long list of investigations that have hinted to the power of natural substances to help with the pain and discomfort associated with this condition. An investigation done by Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine over 25 years ago suggested that nutraceuticals such as glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and collagen hydrolysate may have efficacy for pain equal to that of NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents) – minus the harmful side effects of course .
What About Collagen and Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is caused by an over-activation of the immune system, where inflammation occurs in joint cartilage. Conventional medical wisdom argues that there is a wide difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Recent research, however, suggests that RA and OA have a lot more in common than originally thought.
The most important thing that both of these conditions have (and this is shared with most chronic diseases out there in general) is inflammation . For RA and OA both, inflammation occur in the joints and this leads to the breakdown of cartilage. Collagen has been found time and time again to help reduce inflammation in both RA and OA conditions.
In fact, back in 2000 Nebraska Medical Center researchers found that plain old chicken soup reduced inflammation. How? Something in the soup seemed to detract from certain pro-inflammatory immune system cells from sites of existing inflammation.
At first, the investigators thought that this was caused by the vegetables in the soup, which was a reasonable assumption. As it turned out, however, it was amino-acid rich chicken broth itself that had such an anti-inflammatory effect .
Further research has added validity to the possibility that collagen supplementation may be beneficial for people with both OA and RA. A 2009 double-blind clinical trial involving 500 individuals was published in the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy . It found that an undenatured collagen Type II product improved participants’ stiffness (especially in the morning), pain, joint tenderness, and swelling.
How to Use Collagen to Address Pain Issues
With 23% percent of all American adults having some form of arthritis  and even more suffering from undiagnosed joint pain such as Runner’s Knee, coming up with solutions is a necessity. Even the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recognizes that conventional ways of addressing pain aren’t working. In a 2015 news release  announcing their latest pain findings, the NIH noted:
“Pain is one of the leading reasons Americans turn to complementary health approaches such as yoga, massage, and meditation—which may help manage pain and other symptoms that are not consistently addressed by prescription drugs and other conventional treatments.”
The good news is there are actions you can take right now to increase collagen production, no matter what your age. As always, it is vital that you consult with your trusted health practitioner before beginning any kind of supplementation program. That being said, in study after study, high-quality collagen supplementation has proven effective in helping to reduce both inflammation and pain levels in those who suffer from joint pain.
No matter what, remember that you don’t have to live in pain caused by RA and OA. There are natural solutions that can work.