Glucosamine Could Be the Answer for Joint Pain

Should I Take Glucosamine to Relieve Joint Pain?

 There is nothing fun about joint pain and even worse going to the doctor and hearing the dreaded “getting older” statement.  The truth is all of us will experience joint pain of some sort in our lifetime and it does not matter if it stems from the knees, hips, elbows or back, when the discomfort becomes a nuisance we are on the lookout for relief.  

Looking for Pain Relief

Does Glucosamine Work
Does Glucosamine Work for Joint Pain?. Blend Images - John Lund/Getty Images

 Going to the Doc is always step one to ruling out anything major, but typically 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 for joint pain.   Dealing with inflamed joints can put a damper on the tennis game, training for that 5K, or heavy weight lifting as we spend our nights limping home throwing on the ice packs.  Conservative options including glucosamine supplementation have entered the scene for possible relief of joint pain.  If you are like me, I want to know if something works before handing over the cash and show me evidence to back it up. When it comes to supplements and understanding they are unregulated, I proceed with caution and skeptical of any guarantees.  What the heck is glucosamine and does it really work or am I wasting my time and money swallowing these huge pills?

What is Glucosamine?

Glucosamine May Help with Joint Pain for Better Workouts. Cultura Science/GIPhotoStock Cultura Exclusive/Getty Images

 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 around joints in the body.  You would think supplementing with the chemicals bathing and protecting our joints would be the answer to all our joint pain.  Although glucosamine research is linked to osteoarthritis studies, you may be surprised of the findings thus far.  This article will reference the most widely studied glucosamine, chondroitin and sulfate.

Does Glucosamine Relieve Joint Pain?

Arthritis in the Knee
Joint Pain Can Hinder Our Workouts. Yuri_Arcurs/Getty Images

 It appears glucosamine for joint pain works for some and not for others.  Most research articles refer to “GAIT”, a 2-year Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT) study where the findings revealed “new data from a long-term study of the dietary supplements glucosamine and chondroitin for knee osteoarthritis pain reveal that patients who took the supplements (alone or in combination) had outcomes similar to those experienced by patients who took celecoxib or placebo pills.”  However, reported in a similar study by The New England Journal of Medicine “treatment with chondroitin sulfate was associated with a significant decrease in the incidence of joint swelling, effusion, or both.”  The study then concludes “our finding that the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate may have some efficacy in patients with moderate-to-severe symptoms is interesting but must be confirmed by another trial.”  The feedback is confusing and enough to make your head spin.  The bottom line: there is simply not enough evidence to support that glucosamine will work. Bummer!

Should I take Glucosamine?

Research Glucosamine and Determine if it is Right for You. Sigrid Gombert Cultura/Getty Images

 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 pretty and their guarantees amazing, but decisions should be based on proven facts, talks with your physician and of course personal experience with the product.  Glucosamine just may be that mind over matter I feel better placebo pill good enough for those seeking relief.  The reported 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. 


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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