Joint pain is something many of us deal with due to injury or age. Many people prefer supplementation with glucosamine and chondroitin over using NSAIDs and other pain relievers to avoid the adverse effects of these medications, but does it really work?
How Do Glucosamine and Chondroitin Work?
Glucosamine and chondroitin are components of cartilage that are naturally produced by the body. The idea is to supplement this cartilage tissue to prevent the breakdown of the connective tissue in our joint space, and to reduce pain and swelling in the areas most likely affected by osteoarthritis.
Are They Effective?
The efficacy of glucosamine and chondroitin as compared to placebo still remains unclear. We have some information about the safety and usefulness of glucosamine and chondroitin from large studies but most studies have had conflicting results. Despite controversy, the American College of Rheumatology, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, and the Osteoarthritis Research Society International guidelines do not recommend the use of glucosamine and chondroitin. However, in one of the most comprehensive long-term studies - the Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT) - it did seem to help a small subgroup of patients.
Am I a Good Candidate to Try Glucosamine and Chondroitin?
After discussing its use with your doctor or pharmacist, glucosamine and chondroitin could be worth trying especially if you are not a candidate for NSAIDs. Although their benefit is still unclear, they have not shown to be harmful and no serious side effects have been reported in studies. Keep in mind that if you take blood thinners like warfarin (Coumadin), these supplements can interact. They may also affect blood sugar levels and eye pressure, so use with caution if you have diabetes or glaucoma and assure your doctor is monitoring blood sugar and eye pressure closely.
If you have more questions, reach out to a CHI Health Pharmacist or your Primary Care Provider.