Study on knee pain compares glucosamine and chondroitin to an osteoarthritis drug

Osteoarthritis results from wear and tear on joints, especially the knee, that causes a breakdown of cartilage between bones and results in joint pain. It affects nearly 30 million in the United States. It is commonly treated with anti-inflammatory medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Unfortunately, these only block pain and manage symptoms, and their chronic use is not without side effects in many people.

Glucosamine and chondroitin work on underlying joint issues

Glucosamine and chondroitin are structural components of joint cartilage that may stimulate new cartilage formation. Thus, they more directly address the underlying cause of joint problems. Since glucosamine and chondroitin potentially contribute to better joint integrity without side effects, supplementation is quickly becoming a viable option for the management of osteoarthritis. Two recent studies provide additional support for their efficacy.

Glucosamine and chondroitin compared to a common NSAID drug

A recent large study conducted in multiple locations throughout Europe examined the efficacy of glucosamine and chondroitin versus Celecoxib, a common nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to manage osteoarthritis. Over 600 patients with knee osteoarthritis were enrolled in the trial. The mean age of participants was 63 years and they were mainly women (84%). Participants were randomly assigned to receive 500 mg glucosamine plus 400 mg chondroitin three times per day or 200 mg Celecoxib daily. Since Celecoxib is a proven treatment in the pain management of knee osteoarthritis, a true placebo group was not included.

After 6 months of treatment, there was a highly significant 50% decrease in self-perceived pain in both groups. Both groups also had similar improvements in joint swelling, joint stiffness, joint function and overall response to therapy. The conclusion was that the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin showed comparable efficacy to Celecoxib in patients with painful knee osteoarthritis.

Impact on inflammation markers

Two new studies examined the effects of glucosamine and chondroitin on various markers of inflammation. Compared to placebo, a group of overweight men and women who supplemented with glucosamine (1500 mg/day) and chondroitin (1200 mg/day) for 4 weeks showed a 23% decrease in C-reactive protein. A comprehensive evaluation found that glucosamine and chondroitin supplementation significantly affected 25 biochemical pathways that are specifically involved in inflammation.

Another recent study examined the effects of glucosamine and chondroitin in patients with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). Like knee osteoarthritis, TMJ is associated with tissue destruction, joint dysfunction, inflammation and pain. Subjects either supplemented with glucosamine (1500 mg/day) and chondroitin (1200 mg/day) for 8 weeks, or were prescribed a narcotic analgesic drug to manage pain that did not affect inflammation. The glucosamine and chondroitin group showed a similar reduction in pain as the control group receiving a narcotic drug. Only the glucosamine and chondroitin group showed improvement in joint movement of the mouth. Glucosamine plus chondroitin was also associated with significant reductions in the pro-inflammatory prostaglandins, whereas the control group showed increases in inflammatory markers.

Consider as an alternative to traditional drugs

These new studies add to a growing body of work that indicates a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin taken over several months influences inflammatory markers, affects the perception of pain, improves functional characteristics of joints and is safe. Use of these supplements may be an
alternative to using NSAIDs and narcotics.

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