Have joint pain? Glucosamine has been used for years to relieve all kinds of joint pain. Here are the details..
Benefits and Uses of Glucosamine
Glucosamine is an amino sugar that is synthesized by the human body. It is one of the major components of cartilage, bones, tendons, and connecting tissues. Also, it is known to be useful in reducing the arthritic pain, repairs the damaged cartilage, and builds the synovial fluids.
Glucosamine is also known to play a significant role in the formation of bones, skin, tendons, ligaments, parts of the heart, and nails. As it is a small molecule, hence it is easily absorbed into the blood stream.
Benefits of Glucosamine supplements
Glucosamine supplements have facilitated in reducing as well as preventing the degeneration of cartilage at the joints which are the reason for alleviating the already existing pain in the joints and osteoarthritis pain.
Unlike the other medical administration for this kind of pain and inflammation with negative effects, the Glucosamine has minimal or almost no adverse effects provided it is taken in correct quantities under medical supervision.
Glucosamine Benefits: How It Fights Pain
Glucosamine is a simple molecule that is used by the body to form connective tissue, tendons, and ligaments. It helps build cartilage—the cushioning at the tips of the bones—and protects and strengthens the joints. Although the body makes its own glucosamine, supplements can be helpful in some situations, especially since the natural sources of the substance are inedible. They include the shells of oysters, crabs, and shrimp.
How Glucosamine Works
Glucosamine is found naturally in high concentrations in joint structures throughout the body. It has several complementary actions: It stimulates new joint cartilage, it helps to slow cartilage deterioration associated with ageing or injury; and it is involved in producing the synovial fluid that cushions joints. Glucosamine is available as a supplement, usually as glucosamine hydrochloride or glucosamine sulfate.
Glucosamine is often taken in conjunction with chondroitin sulfate, which is also thought to reduce joint pain and rebuild cartilage, and methylsulphonylmethane (MSM), an anti-inflammatory sulfur compound that has been shown to reduce joint pain significantly and improve mobility in patients with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. Formulations often contain all three substances.
Glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM help to combat both the causes and symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis; they may also be helpful for bursitis, osteoporosis, and other degenerative bone diseases, as well as stimulating general wound healing.
A large number of studies have been carried out on glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM; some have been inconclusive, but many have demonstrated worthwhile results. For example, a long-term study published in the Lancet of patients with knee OA who were given 1,500 mg/day of glucosamine sulfate, compared to a control group given a placebo, showed that the glucosamine resulted in a cessation of loss of cartilage. In addition, there was no loss of space in the joint during that period, which in turn resulted in marked improvements in pain management, mobility, and quality of life.
In a related study, published in Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, patients who had previously taken glucosamine supplements were less likely to go on to have knee replacements and were less reliant on anti-inflammatory medications. It is thought that glucosamine is most likely to be of benefit when some cartilage is still available, rather than when significant loss has already occurred. A review of glucosamine research suggests that the glucosamine sulfate is more effective than the hydrochloride form in treating osteoarthritis.
How to Use Glucosamine
Glucosamine supplements come as tablets or capsules. A usual dose is 1,500 mg/day of glucosamine with 1,200 mg of chondroitin and 4,000-8,000 mg of MSM; however, dosages in over-the-counter products may vary depending on the potency of source material. Follow label instructions or take as professionally prescribed.
Glucosamine may be sourced from the shells of crustaceans (shrimp, crab, lobster), so should not be taken by anyone with a seafood allergy. Check the label as some brands are synthesized from other materials.
To be fair, here’s a counter argument backed by its own scientific studies…
Glucosamine and Chrondroitin for Arthritis
Chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine are popular supplements used to treat the pain and loss of function associated with osteoarthritis (OA). However, most studies assessing their effectiveness show modest to no improvement compared with placebo in either pain relief or joint damage.
What Is Chondroitin?
Chondroitin is a major component of cartilage that helps it retain water. It is made by the body naturally. For production of supplements, it can be manufactured from the cartilage of animals, like cows, pigs or sharks, or it can be made in the laboratory. The supplement is sold as chondroitin sulfate. In many European countries it is approved as a prescription treatment for OA. In the U.S., it is often combined with a glucosamine supplement.
What Is Glucosamine?
Like chondroitin, glucosamine is a natural compound found in healthy cartilage, particularly in the fluid around the joints. For dietary supplements, it is harvested from shells of shellfish or can be made in the laboratory. It can come in several chemical forms, but the one most used in arthritis is glucosamine sulfate. In laboratory tests, glucosamine showed anti-inflammatory properties and even appeared to help cartilage regeneration.
Chondroitin Sulfate in Osteoarthritis
Chondroitin may provide additional pain relief for some people with knee and hand osteoarthritis. The benefit is usually modest (about 8 to 10 percent improvement) and it works slowly (up to 3 months). Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCD), which has rated and evaluated more than 80,000 natural drug ingredients and commercial dietary supplements, classified chondroitin as “possibly effective” for knee OA.
A 2011 study published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism found chondroitin sulfate to modestly relieve pain and improve function in people with hand OA (the results of this study were not yet taken into account by the NMCD for their recommendation). The supplement was made from fish and taken daily at a dose of 800 mg for 6 months. Patients reported some improvement after 3 months of treatment. A shorter duration of morning stiffness was also noticed. Chondroitin did not improve grip strength. In addition, patients treated with chondroitin did not use less pain medication (acetaminophen) than those taking placebo.
Because no side effects due to chondroitin were reported, it can be tried as an alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for patients who cannot take NSAIDs and who need long-term treatment. Chondroitin and NSAIDs have not been compared head-to-head; however, other studies of NSAIDs in patients with hand OA showed a similar improvement in hand pain and function as found with chondroitin. The NSAIDs relieve pain more rapidly than chondroitin sulfate, but they may cause more serious side effects (increased risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, heart attack or stroke, and interactions with other medications), particularly in elderly patients.
Glucosamine in Osteoarthritis
Glucosamine may provide modest pain relief for some patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, hip and spine. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database classified glucosamine as “likely effective” for osteoarthritis, thus rating it higher than chondroitin. Most of the studies included in the recommendation were done in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. Because glucosamine is very safe, it can be tried in place of NSAIDs in patients who need long-term treatment and cannot take NSAIDs.
However, some studies show that glucosamine provides the same pain relief as a placebo (a pill that does not contain any medicine). This is called a “placebo effect,” in which the patients expect to feel better, so they do. An example is a study published in 2010 in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found glucosamine did not provide additional pain relief compared to placebo in people with chronic lower back pain caused by osteoarthritis in the lower spine. Half of the participants took glucosamine (1,500 milligrams daily) and the other half took a placebo. Both groups said their lower back pain improved by about 50 percent over one year. However, due to small number of people involved in the study, more research is needed to confirm these results for lower spine OA.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin Combination in Osteoarthritis
The most comprehensive long-term study of any supplement—the Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT)—looked at the combination of chondroitin and glucosamine, both supplements individually, celecoxib (Celebrex) and placebo in patients with knee osteoarthritis.
The first phase of GAIT found that the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate showed significant relief in a smaller subgroup of study participants with moderate-to-severe knee pain. But there was no effect in the group with mild pain. Those results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2006.
The second phase of the GAIT study published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism in 2008 looked at preventing joint damage in the knee. The combination of glucosamine and chondroitin appeared to be no more effective at preventing joint damage caused by osteoarthritis than a placebo. While the differences between the groups were not statistically significant, the participants who lost the least amount of joint space over two years were in the groups taking either glucosamine alone or chondroitin alone. It is possible that taking the two supplements together might limit their absorption into the body, explaining the lower effect of the supplement combination.
In the third phase looking at a total of four years, the supplements in combination or alone had no greater benefit in knee pain relief than celecoxib or placebo. Although the results were not statistically significant, celecoxib achieved the highest odds of attaining at least 20% reduction in pain. These results were published in 2010 in the journal Annals of Rheumatic Disease.
The American College of Rheumatology in their latest osteoarthritis treatment recommendations published in 2012 does not recommend chondroitin or glucosamine for the initial treatment of osteoarthritis. Chondroitin and glucosamine supplements alone or in combination may not work for everyone with osteoarthritis. However, patients who take these supplements and who have seen improvements with them should not stop taking them. Both supplements are safe to take long-term.
The differences in effectiveness of chondroitin may also be caused by variations in dosing and quality of the supplements. The chondroitin content between different brands can vary a lot. Similar concerns have been raised over glucosamine supplements. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about which brand to choose when trying out either of these supplements, or a combination product.
Green Planet Nutraceuticals has an excellent joint pain product. It contains glucosamine, chrondroitin and MSM and six additional nutrients (such as boswellia extract). It is manufactured in the U.S.A. in an FDA-approved facility using the highest grade natural ingredients. You can pick up a bottle at out listing on Amazon.com.
Will this work for you? Honestly, we don’t know. It seems everyone reacts differently. Read the reviews on our Amazon listing.
If you want to give it a try, here are three comments/suggestions:
- Use it for at least a month. It could take that long to notice results.
- Be aware of other circumstances. For example, if you have knee pain and are severely overweight and never exercise, our product probably won’t work for you.
- If you are willing to try our product and it doesn’t work, we have a money back guarantee so there is no big risk in seeing if this will work.