Walk through the supplement aisle of your local pharmacy, and you will likely see row upon row of “joint supplements”—pills or liquids that promise to relieve joint stiffness and pain, and increase mobility. If there are so many of these products on the market, they must be effective—right?
Unfortunately, the answer is not quite so simple. While it would be wonderful to swallow a pill and relieve your knee pain, the evidence has not been particularly favorable for these joint supplements. That fact, however, has not stopped people from buying them; according to Nutrition Business Journal, Americans spent $753 million in 2012 on glucosamine and chondroitin supplements in an attempt to soothe pain and stiffness from arthritis.
Here are a few things to keep in mind before adding your hard-earned money to this impressive total:
• The studies are inconclusive. A 2010 study published online in the British Medical Journal that assessed previous research on the topic found no clinically relevant effect of chondroitin, glucosamine or a combination of the two on either joint pain or joint space narrowing. Several studies assessing previous research show no difference between taking glucosamine/chondroitin and a placebo. In fact, treatment guidelines for arthritis of the knee issued in 2013 by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons do not include the use of supplements due to the lack of convincing research.
• These supplements may not contain what they claim to contain. A 2013 Consumer Reports study tested 16 joint supplement products. Six of them contained only 79% to 87% of the labeled amount of chondroitin; one contained only 65%.
• These supplements may interfere with other medications. While these products are typically safe and harmless, they may interact with certain prescription drugs, such as blood thinners.
Rather than turning first to an unproven supplement, instead start by focusing on exercises that have been shown to help osteoarthritis and joint discomfort. Using evidence-based modalities, we can design an individualized exercise program for you that can get the results you desire. Discuss your joint health with us before heading to the drugstore to spend your hard-earned money on dubious supplements.
Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation in Paramus, NJ provides orthopedic and sports physical therapy services for the greater Ridgewood, Paramus, and Bergen County region. This blog is intended for informational purposes only and should not be used for diagnostic or prescriptive purposes. The views expressed here are the author’s views and should be taken as suggestions. Always consult your doctor or healthcare practitioner before engaging in a physical therapy or rehabilitative program.