Glucosamine Could Be the Answer for Joint Pain

A Closer Look at Glucosamine for Pain Relief

Post workout joint pain is unpleasant. It can hinder participation in our favorite sport trying to avoid the painful after effects. There is nothing fun about joint pain. Topping it off, going to the doctor and hearing it's normal as we age can add to the frustration. 

The truth is all of us will experience some joint pain in our lifetime. It doesn't matter if it stems from the knees, hips, elbows or back when the discomfort becomes a nuisance we are on the lookout for relief.  

Joint Pain

Joint jarring run
Glucosamine Protects Our Joints. Yuri_Arcurs / Getty Images

Going to the doctor for chronic joint pain is always step one to rule out anything major. What is typically discovered is wear and tear on the body does happen over time. 

Workouts, running and even carrying additional weight are tough on the body and joints.  As we age, glucosamine levels go down, which can lead to eventual joint deterioration.  Arthritis and especially osteoarthritis affects several million people and the general cause of joint pain. 

Dealing with inflamed joints can put a damper on the tennis game, training for that 5K, or heavy weight lifting. Post workout sends us limping home throwing on the ice packs. 

Glucosamine supplementation is indicated to provide possible relief of joint pain. Great news but it's still important to review the clinical evidence prior to purchasing any supplement. What works for one person may not work for another.

All supplements are unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and recommended to be approached with skepticism. Fact-checking the claims as a consumer is advised and will provide confidence in purchasing supplements like glucosamine.

What is Glucosamine?

Glucosamine is a naturally occurring chemical found in the fluid around our joints. There are different forms of glucosamine including glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride, and chondroitin.  Chondroitin is another chemical that is typically found in cartilage surrounding joints in the body.

One would assume supplementing with the chemicals naturally surrounding our joints would be the answer to our joint pain. Glucosamine research is limited and focused mainly on osteoarthritis. The forms most widely studied are glucosamine, chondroitin, and sulfate.

Does Glucosamine Relieve Joint Pain?

It appears glucosamine for joint pain works for some and not for others. Much of the research refers to the 2-year Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT).

GAIT indicated the long-term study for patients taking glucosamine and chondroitin for knee osteoarthritis pain had positive results. Some participants using the supplements had outcomes similar to those experienced by patients who took celecoxib, a prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory.

Other research participants showed no response taking both glucosamine or placebo.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicated a significant decrease of joint swelling and pain with chondroitin sulfate. These findings reveal glucosamine and may be beneficial to treat moderate-to-severe symptoms. 

The bottom line is there isn't enough conclusive evidence to support that glucosamine will work. Further research is required. 

Should I take Glucosamine?

Always consult with your doctor before taking any supplements including glucosamine. Supplements remain unregulated and the purity and effectiveness of the product is always in question.

Labels may look appealing and effectiveness claims amazing, but decisions should be based on proven facts. Personal experience with taking glucosamine can also help determine if it's right for you.  

Glucosamine just may be a psychological feel better placebo pill good enough for those seeking relief. It appears to work for some.

The recommended dose for best possible results is 1500 mg of glucosamine sulfate and 1250 mg of chondroitin. The best course of action is to always be your own health care advocate, monitor how you respond to glucosamine and record any improvements. 

You will know soon enough if you are wasting your money and hey, you just might get lucky. 

Sources:

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, To Glucosamine or Not Glucosamine?, S. Terry Canale, MD, 9/12

The New England Journal of Medicine, Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulfate, and the Two in Combination for Painful Knee Osteoarthritis, Daniel O. Clegg, M.D. et al., 2/23/06

US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT), Sawitzke AD et al., 8/10

US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Effects of glucosamine, chondroitin, or placebo in patients with osteoarthritis of hip or knee: network meta-analysis, Wandel S et al., 9/16/10

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