I am frequently asked whether supplements for osteoarthritis, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, can prevent the degeneration. This is an excellent question, and unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer.
This question is not only asked by sufferers of OA on their own behalf but also by people who are worried they may someday develop the disease as their mums and/or dads are crippled with the disease.
A number of high quality studies have been done and I have reported on them in the past (use the search at the top right of this page and put in supplements to find them).
However, even after all this research there is no conclusive evidence that either glucosamine or chondroitin (or a mixture of the two) can prevent osteoarthritis. Claims suggesting these supplements can prevent OA are, in my opinion, not proven yet.
Glucosamine and chondroitin have been most studied as a treatment for people who already have osteoarthritis (particularly of the knee) and the interpretation of studies of these supplements for osteoarthritis are somewhat controversial with one study concluding one thing and another the complete opposite.
But here’s what I believe is true about supplements for osteoarthritis :
1. They can be effective as mild pain relievers in some people.
2. Their ability to help degenerated joints heal or improve is uncertain.
3. They are generally safe, with few side effects. However, take care as they are not regulated or tested, as chemical drugs must be, so the purity and potency of a particular brand of glucosamine or chondroitin may not be reliable. This is why I recommend Native Remedies as I know these are high quality products.
The ideal dose and whether they work best when combined (compared with being taken alone) are also unknown. Mostly the research seems to suggest glucosamine sulphate rather than in the hydrochloride form is better and that it works as well alone as with chondroitin. As for the dose personally I suggest you take what is the suggested amount on the box you can get different strengths.
Please note if you are taking these supplements for osteoarthritis as “primary prevention,” (i.e. you are trying to prevent yourself from getting OA) there is no scientific evidence that either glucosamine or chondroitin is effective.
“Secondary prevention” is also unproven. So if you are hoping these supplements will prevent your degeneration getting worse then you may be disappointed. The jury is definitely still out on this one. For example, one study found that on X-ray knee OA seemed to improve or at least not get any worse. But many experts questioned the quality of the research and a better quality follow-up study did not confirm the findings.
So Should You Take Supplements for Osteoarthritis?
Personally I don’t think there is convincing evidence that glucosamine, chondroitin or the two in combination can prevent osteoarthritis from getting worse. However as a pain killer they certainly seem to have a reasonable effect on some people and are, in my opinion, much safer than conventional painkillers.
The best thing to do is to keep a pain diary for at least 2 weeks before you start taking any supplements for osteoarthritis. Do this by simply scoring each day out of 10 with 0 being no pain and 10 being agony). Then keep the pain diary going to see if you improve when on them.
Also consider other types such as Devils Claw, Sam-e, MSM and Omega 3. These have different effects (e.g. Devils Claw is an anti-inflammatory) and pathways to glucosamine and chondroitin. From what I can gather from anecdotal evidence mixed supplements for osteoarthritis seem to work the best.
Different supplements seem to help different people but to me it seems to be a dietary lack of the compound that makes it successful. For example I don’t eat any fish and am not keen on nuts so I lack Omega 3. Taking this as a supplement for my osteoarthritis definitely reduces my pain.
Anything you try you must take for at least 2 months. See if you feel any better. If you don’t feel better then take a break for 2 weeks and try different one. Also don’t try more than one at a time as you won’t know which works and taking them all is expensive!
Researchers continue to study many different supplements for osteoarthritis so, if you aren’t already, please sign up for my free monthly newsletter for information on the right hand side of this page for more about supplements for osteoarthritis plus lots of other sorts of treatments too.
If you want to try a good supplement for osteoarthritis I recommend JointEase Plus. Just click on the banner below to try it but remember to keep your pain diary before you start using it!