Glucosamine Versus Collagen for Joint Pain – Do They Work?

If you’re struggling with joint pain, stiffness, or mobility issues, your gym buddy or favorite fitness influencer may have advised you to take supplements like glucosamine or collagen.

These supplements have been praised for being effective in helping people with joint pain and discomfort. But what does the science say?

Let’s take a closer look at glucosamine versus collagen to see if we can find a clear answer.

What is Glucosamine?

Glucosamine is an amino sugar that occurs naturally in the human body – mainly in joint cartilage.

It helps lubricate the joints for more comfortable movement and plays a role in building and repairing damaged cartilage caused by injury or arthritis.

Not only does it relieve pain and joint discomfort, but taking glucosamine has been shown to potentially help prevent long-term damage to the joints because it helps prevent collagen destruction, among other things.

Considering all that, it’s not surprising that glucosamine is becoming increasingly popular among athletes, joggers, gym goers, and anyone looking to maintain their mobility and joint health.

What is Collagen?

Collagen is a protein that is a fundamental building block of our bodies. Plain and simple.

It is primarily found in our skin, bones, and ligaments, and its functionality gives us structure and strength. In other words, collagen plays a vital role in many essential processes in our body.

Regarding our joints, collagen also acts as a “protective shield”, combating wear and tear that may otherwise cause pain or disabilities.

On top of this, collagen helps strengthen bones by providing a framework (additional osteoblasts) to support growth. Not only does it help with the development of new bone cells, but it repairs damaged ones, too.

A pretty essential compound overall.

How Do the Benefits of Glucosamine and Collagen Compare?

These seem fairly similar in what they do within our bodies. But what are the actual benefits they bring?

Benefits of Glucosamine

There have been numerous anecdotal benefits associated with glucosamine, but the ones with the evidence behind them are:

  • Reducing joint pain and stiffness
  • Improving bone health
  • Relieving chronic inflammation [1]

Besides the above-mentioned, glucosamine supplementation has been linked to lowering the risk of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, helping slow down the development of MS, calming down the upset stomach of those suffering from IBD, and even promoting and aiding weight loss. However, most of those claims were never scientifically proven.

Benefits of Collagen

Unlike glucosamine, the effects and benefits of collagen were studied and proven more times. Here is a list of the most scientifically backed ones:

  • Relieving joint pain
  • Improving bone and joint health [2]
  • Improving skin health and elasticity
  • Regulating blood sugar
  • Speeding up the healing process
  • Promoting healthy gut bacteria
  • Boosting immune health

With that in mind, it’s easy to see how an athlete or someone with joint pain would want to up the collagen presence in their system, especially considering how detrimental heavy exercise is on joints.

Wear and tear on the joints during intense workout sessions is very significant. As cartilage, ligaments, and tendons don’t progress as quickly as our muscles do, taking collagen supplements can help keep them in good condition and prevent injuries from occurring while you progressively overload.

Is Collagen or Glucosamine Better for Treating Joint Pain?

It is widely accepted that collagen is better for alleviating joint pain than glucosamine, mainly because there’s evidence for it.

There is even a study proving collagen type II’s superiority over glucosamine. [3] However, researchers didn’t directly compare the effects of collagen type II to the effects of glucosamine. Instead, they cross-referenced them.

Can You Take Collagen and Glucosamine Together?

You can take both collagen and glucosamine together. In fact, there are many supplements on the market that combine both of them in their formula.

Taking them together can potentially bring even more health benefits as they work in synergy.

For example, experiments have shown that glucosamine prevents collagen degeneration, effectively increasing your body’s ability to regenerate cartilage and tendons, offset pain, improve range of motion, etc.

Bottom Line: Glucosamine vs. Collagen – Which is Better?

It goes without saying that both glucosamine and collagen compounds benefit joint health.

However, is supplementing them actually worth it?

No. Not really. For a myriad of reasons.

First of all – the price.

Most collagen supplements are very expensive, which is surprising, to say the least, considering most collagen protein powders use a dirt-cheap form of collagen, exploiting people’s lack of knowledge on the subject.

Secondly, we’re overlooking digestion and absorption.

As you learned earlier, collagen is a protein. A protein is a chain of amino acids. What happens to that protein when you eat it is that the chain gets broken down into individual amino acids. From there, collagen protein amino acids enter the bloodstream along with other amino acids obtained from food, ending up where they are most needed without our body even knowing their source. Best case scenario? There’s a chance these individual amino acids do something for your joints.

And finally, there’s the problem of the type.

The only type of collagen that will do something for your joints is undenatured type II collagen – the one mentioned in the study above.

The thing is, even this form of collagen isn’t supplying your joints with collagen.

Instead, it signals your immune system to stop destroying the collagen already in your joints. That is how UC-II boosts joint health and helps folks with arthritis.

But the bigger issue is that this form of collagen is rarely found in collagen protein supplements because it’s too expensive, so unless the manufacturer explicitly outlines the dose and type of collagen on the label – it is not worth it.

As for glucosamine? Just skip it. It’s neither proven nor cost-effective.


There you have it. While on their own, collagen and glucosamine are beneficial for joint health, supplementing them doesn’t seem to be especially effective.

At best, you’re looking at an expensive placebo.

At worst? You’re looking at a severe allergic reaction in some cases.

So, save your money, eat a healthy and balanced diet, and strengthen your joints by exercising them. While this may not sound like the most exciting recommendation, it is by far the most effective one.

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