Does glucosamine help with arthritis?


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Author: Brooke Carmen, PT, DPT: Doctor of Physical Therapy and Blog Contributor.  Loves fun informational gems.  Fitness addict and wannabe foodie. Emphasizes patient-specific treatment style and promotes goal-oriented care. Learn more about Brooke on here. gems.  Fitness addict and wannabe foodie. Emphasizes patient-specific treatment style and promotes goal-oriented care. Learn more about Brooke on here.


There are many supplements on the market such as glucosamine that claim to help musculoskeletal problems, but how much do they actually do? It’s important to learn about what you are taking for your health.

Glucosamine can be taken orally and is claimed to help with arthritis by decreasing joint stiffness. Glucosamine is naturally found within the fluid in our joints. Note that there are different types of glucosamine, glucosamine sulfate being the one most commonly studied.

Glucosamine is not a pharmaceutical drug, but a dietary supplement that is usually taken with chondroitin sulfate which is naturally in cartilage. Both are marketed to help with arthritis and joint stiffness, but it is illegal to claim that any dietary supplement can be used to treat a disease.

There is mixed evidence for the use of glucosamine for joint pain and general arthritis. Some studies claim significant benefits while others say it is the same as placebo.

In 2015, the European Journal of Medical Research published a research study that showed that glucosamine helped with reducing pain and improving function, but did not physiologically change the joint space of an arthritic knee. [1] The study found that it does not delay osteoarthritis progression

Another study published in 2017 looked at middle-aged overweight women with knee OA. The population took glucosamine for 6-7 years as a preventative measure to worsening OA. In conclusion, the study found that effects of glucosamine were negligible. Losing weight was a significant benefit in improving symptoms. [2]

Most people report reduced pain with glucosamine use, however, it is less likely to effect people with chronic or severe arthritis. Overweight people are also less likely to feel effects. [3]

If you are considering taking a supplement such as glucosamine to reduce joint pain, it may be helpful, but it’s also important to address lifestyle changes that could be more beneficial. It is also important to consider side effects of long-term supplement use.

The question you need to ask yourself before taking a supplement is “What else can I do to achieve the goal I want from this supplement?” because taking glucosamine alone without changing your physical activity or exercise is likely not significant.

A physical therapist can help you pair exercise and recommend lifestyle changes that can reduce joint pain. Please recognize that your physical therapist cannot recommend supplements or any medication. Discuss supplement and medication changes with your primary care.

CITATIONS:

1. Kongtharvonskul, Jatupon, et al. “Efficacy and Safety of Glucosamine, Diacerein, and NSAIDs in Osteoarthritis Knee: a Systematic Review and Network Meta-Analysis.” European Journal of Medical Research, BioMed Central, 13 Mar. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4359794/.

2. de, B C, et al. “Long-Term Effects of a Lifestyle Intervention and Oral Glucosamine Sulphate in Primary Care on Incident Knee OA in Overweight Women.” Rheumatology (Oxford, England)., U.S. National Library of Medicine, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28431145.

3. “Glucosamine Sulfate.” MedlinePlus Supplements, medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/807.html.

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