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Healthy Living

Glucosamine for Arthritis Pain Relief

Many patients are quickly becoming aware of the significant benefits of taking Glucosamine for relieving the chronic pain of arthritis.

Glucosamine is a naturally occurring product that primarily does two things in the body: helps to build cartilage and help prevent the further degradation of existing cartilage.

Frequently Glucosamine is combined with Chrondroitin as a 1-2-punch combination to help relieve the pain and inflammation associated with degenerative joint disease. Although the combination is a leading seller, many noted scientific studies suggest that the Glucosamine is probably responsible for 90-93% of the effectiveness. Glucosamine comes in both the sulfate and the HCl form. There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that the sulfate form is superior to the HCl form.

Glucosamine is not a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (like Ibuprofen, Voltaren, Motrin, Naprosyn and Relafen). These drugs are very effective for acute inflammatory response. However, long term use can cause significant stomach and gastric distress, and possible liver and kidney involvement. Glucosamine doesn't replace these drugs, but is an adjunct therapy recommended for long term use. After 4-6weeks of twice-daily dosage, many people have significant absence of pain, and can minimize the use of non-steroidals. Non-steroidal drugs should be kept on hand for acute, short-term arthritis pain. I've received dozens of positive testimonials on the effectiveness of Glucosamine. Although more effective in osteoarthritis, its use with rheumatoid arthritis can be tried.

© Dan Wagner, R.Ph.

Updates:

Cautions:

Some people may want to be especially careful when considering supplementing with glucosamine sulfate:
  • Children, women who are pregnant, and women who could become pregnant should not take these supplements. They have not been studied long enough to determine their effects on a child or on a developing fetus.

  • Because glucosamine is an amino sugar, people with diabetes should check their blood sugar levels more frequently when taking this supplement.

  • If you are taking chondroitin sulfate in addition to a blood-thinning medication or daily aspirin therapy, have your blood clotting time checked more often. This supplement is similar in structure to the blood-thinning drug heparin, and the combination may cause bleeding in some people.

  • If you are allergic to shellfish, consult your doctor before deciding to take glucosamine. In most cases, however, allergies are caused by proteins in shellfish, not chitin, a carbohydrate from which glucosamine is extracted.

Source: National Arthritis Foundation

On March 15, 2000, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a meta-analysis [1] whose authors concluded: "Trials of glucosamine and chondroitin preparations for OA symptoms demonstrate moderate to large effects, but quality issues and likely publication bias suggest that these effects are exaggerated. Nevertheless, some degree of efficacy appears probable for these preparations." An accompanying editorial [2] concluded: "As with many nutraceuticals that currently are widely touted as beneficial for common but difficult-to-treat disorders, the promotional enthusiasm often far surpasses the scientific evidence supporting clinical use. Until high-quality studies, such as the National Institutes of Health study, are completed, work such as [the meta-analysis] is the best hope for providing physicians with information necessary to advise their patients about the risks and benefits of these therapies."

References:

  1. McAlindon TE and others. Glucosamine and chondroitin for treatment of osteoarthritis: A systematic quality assessment and meta-analysis JAMA 283:1469­1475, 2000. [Full-text version is accessible online for JAMA subscribers.]
  2. Tanveer E, Anastassiades TP. Glucosamine and chondroitin for treating symptoms of osteoarthritis: Evidence is widely touted but incomplete. JAMA 283:1483­1484, 2000. [Full-text version is accessible online for JAMA subscribers.]

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