Glucosamine and chondroitin are two popular supplements commonly used to reduce join pain and promote overall joint health. Many massage lubricants formulated for “joint health” and consumer arthritis products contain glucosamine and/or chondroitin. (Arthritis causes pain, swelling and stiffness in joints and damages cartilage over time.) However, recent osteoarthritis studies show that these supplements may not be as effective as once thought. In the studies, arthritis patients were prescribed either glucosamine, chondroitin, a combination of the two, an anti-inflammatory, or a placebo. A large majority of the patients reported no significant difference in pain relief between glucosamine, chondroitin, a combination of the two, or a placebo. There was also no improvement to the structure of the joint or delay in the progression of the arthritis.
So does that mean the supplements are useless for joint health? Not necessarily. There was a small percentage of patients with moderate to severe knee pain that reported greater pain relief than from a placebo alone, and even if there is no physiological improvement in the joints, the pain relief for those patients is real. Treating chronic pain can be complicated and any source of relief can be enough to provide a little momentum toward full recovery. For instance, exercise and weight loss is often the best form of therapy for arthritis pain. Dr. Patience White of the Arthritis Foundation notes that “If you lose only five pounds, you’re talking about the equivalent of 20 pounds [less stress] across those knees, so you can imagine it would make quite a difference.” But what about when persistent pain prevents regular exercise and physical activity? In this situation, even a mild degree of pain relief can be enough for one to become more active and experience the benefits of exercise.
The bottom line is that if you experience even mild pain relief from glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, then go for it! They’re certainly not harmful and if it makes regular exercise tolerable, then that’s one step closer to a healthier, pain-free life.Share This: