glucosamine and arthritis

Was getting out of bed tough this morning?  Although most people dread leaving their warm and cozy bed, a significant portion of the population find it tough for a very different reason – arthritis.

In 2014, Statistics Canada put the number of Canadians impacted by arthritis at 4,801,390. This is nearly 13% of the entire population. We consider that to be significant. In fact, as the baby boomers age, we expect that percentage to consistently increase.

As people continue to look for the treatment option that best manages their particular type of arthritis, they often overlook the potential impact a natural supplement like Glucosamine (GL) can provide.  One of the most important facts to note about GL, is that it is naturally occurring, meaning it is something that your body produces on its own.  What we know is GL produced in the body provides natural building blocks for growth, repair and maintenance of cartilage. Like chondroitin* (CL), GL may lubricate joints, help cartilage retain water and prevent its breakdown.  GL is similar to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for effectiveness of easing osteoarthritis (OA) symptoms, but may take twice as long as conventional drugs to work. There are two schools of thought, or I should say bodies of knowledge, that either support the pain relief claims of GL, or not. Some research appears to indicate that there are more studies that show positive effects of the supplement than not. One thing that most studies seem to agree on, is that it takes about a month of consistent use to be effective. Let’s investigate!


The largest study to date, the 2006 Glucosamine/chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT), looked at 1,600 people with knee OA. The first phase found that a small subset of patients with moderate-to-severe arthritis experienced significant pain relief from combined GL and CH. The 2008 phase found that GL and CH, together or alone, did not slow joint damage. And in the two-year-long 2010 phase, GL and CH were found as effective for knee OA as celecoxib (Celebrex).


Long-term effects of glucosamine sulphate on osteoarthritis progression: a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial”, published in 2001, showed that patients on placebo had a progressive joint-space narrowing, with a mean joint-space loss after 3 years of −0·31 mm (95% CI −0·48 to −0·13). There was no significant joint-space loss in the 106 patients on glucosamine sulphate: −0·06 mm (−0·22 to 0·09). Similar results were reported with minimum joint-space narrowing. As assessed by WOMAC scores, symptoms worsened slightly in patients on placebo compared with the improvement observed after treatment with glucosamine sulphate. There were no differences in safety or reasons for early withdrawal between the treatment and placebo groups.


In contrast to these notable studies a recent publication on the topic, published in the World Journal of Orthopaedics in January 2017, said this of Glucosamine Sulfate efficacy: Despite the different methodology of these SR’s, it seems that almost all conclude to a similar result; Chondrotin (CH) and Glucosamine (GL) have an effect size slight better when compared with placebo. However, when only the information from best quality trials are considered, then none of these supplements seem to demonstrate any superiority. Therefore, almost all of these level I reviews conclude to a lack of established efficacy, eventually suggesting that CH or GL should not be used in new patients.


Regardless of what the science says, many people get the pain relief they are looking for through the use of a Glucosamine supplement, and not just your typical arthritis patient either. In the 2018 winter Olympic games hosted in Korea, we saw the world’s top athletes compete. As invincible as they might seem, and as “fine-tuned” as they look, Olympic athletes aren’t without their share of physical ailments. Tim Burke, a member of the Team USA Biathlon squad, is a four-time Olympic athlete. Tim has been outspoken about his experience with the liquid form of a glucosamine supplement. After a career threatening hip surgery for arthritis in 2002, he credits his full recovery to the addition of a liquid Glucosamine supplement to his daily routine. Post-surgery, Tim was able to break not only his own personal records but a few World Cup records also.


When it comes to pain management and disease prevention, one size doesn’t fit all. What works for some doesn’t work for others, and with the many different forms of arthritis out there you are bound to be overwhelmed with the options for treatment. If you are looking for a natural supplement with no potential side effects and no potential drug interactions we give Glucosamine Sulfate a big thumbs up.

Just remember, it takes a full month to feel the complete effects!

Meaghan Noel
Arthritis & Injury Care Centre


* Chondroitin sulfate is an important structural component of cartilage and provides much of its resistance to compression. Along with glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate has become a widely used dietary supplement for treatment of osteoarthritis.


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