For many years, people have been searching for ways to alleviate joint pain, especially those who suffer from the painful effects of osteoarthritis. Glucosamine and chondroitin are two naturally occurring substances in your body that help build and repair cartilage. The theory behind using them for joint pain is that more of the cartilage building blocks will be available for cartilage repair. Research has shown that these products are generally safe, but are they effective? Much of the current research says you should save your money.
A study conducted at Oslo University Hospital (and recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association), looked at patients who suffered from low back pain and osteoarthritis. 125 Norwegians were given oral glucosamine for 6 months, while a second group was given a placebo. The participants were evaluated for pain, pain-related disability, and quality of life at the beginning of the study, then at six weeks, three months, six months and a year. Whether they were taking the actual pills or placebo, there was no difference in pain level between the two groups.
According to research, "While it is an interesting theory, oral consumption of glucosamine and chondroitin has not been shown to alter the availability of these cartilage building blocks inside an arthritic joint. It has not been shown that consumption of joint supplements increases the quantity of these cartilage building blocks within any joint."
On the other hand, a 3-month study of chondroitin in 372 patients found that their pain symptoms decreased while taking the supplement. However, it's difficult to know how much of that is an actual change in pain level and how much is a placebo effect ("Since I'm taking a drug to help with my joint pain it must be working, right?").
A few things to keep in mind: Most of these products say you'll need to take them for at least 8 weeks before starting to see any difference. So you will have to invest a little money and time before expecting results. These supplements are also not regulated by the FDA, so you can never be totally sure about what you're getting.
I took glucosamine and chondroitin for a few years to help with knee pain. I felt like it did make a difference for me, but eventually I stopped taking it when I got pregnant with my first child. I know some people who have had success with it, and others who say it was a waste of time and money.
Have you ever tried using glucosamine and/or chondroitin for joint pain? If so, did it help?
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