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Does Glucosamine or Chondroitin help Osteoarthritis?

I recently read a high quality review of several studies that looked at the potential benefits of Glucosamine, Chondroitin or some combination of the two that was published in the British Medical Journal in September of 2010.  During the last ten years numerous health professionals have recommended these over the counter supplements for patients suffering from ostearthritis.  The main focus of these studies was either a reduction in pain levels or improved cartilage thickness. Both Chondroitin and Glucosamine are found in the body and assist in cartilage function.  The general theory is that if taken orally Chondroitin and Glucosamine would be introduced into the joints and improve joint function resulting in less pain.  A local orthopedic surgeon who is a friend of mine has always believed this thought  rationale is flawed.   He feels it is similar to thinking that “chopping up a heart and eating it thinking it will help with heart disease”.

Each of studies included had to have the following parameters:
  • Greater than 100 patients with hip or knee osteoarthritis
  • > 800mg of Chondroitin
  • > 1500 of Glucosamines
  • 10 studies included and total of 3803 patients included in all studies
  • Average age of patients 58-66 years old
  • One to 36 months length of study

Unfortunately,  the analysis of multiple studies demonstrated limited improvement in pain or joint space narrowing

My advice to my patients when choosing whether to take either Glucosamine or Chondroitin is to realize it does not appear to help in osteoarthritic symptoms but seems to have limited side effects. The effectiveness of these supplements takes 2 to 3 months see an effect and I recommend stopping at 6 months of taking supplements for one to two  months  to gauge if it is working.  There are wide differences in the quality and strength of supplements so it is difficult to advise which supplement provider to use.  Always check with your primary care physician prior to taking any over the counter medication or supplement.  Anything you ingest can have an effect on your body even if it isn’t prescribed.
Tom Willemann

Tom Willemann

Tom Willemann is a premier physical therapist based out of Bergen County, New Jersey. He holds an MS in physical therapy from the University of Miami, is credentialed in the world-renowned McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT), and holds an OCS (Orthopedic Clinical Specialist) certification. As of 2018, there are approximately 14,000 ABPTS certified specialists in the nation and less than 400 of them are located in the state of New Jersey. Tom is the owner and director of Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation in Paramus. He opened the clinic, which specializes in spine and sports injury prevention, in 2004 after many years of experience in the field. Tom’s caring interest in others and his strong belief in continuity of care, combined with his clinic’s ability to find solutions for the most difficult orthopedic problems, have earned Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation its excellent reputation with patients and medical professionals in northeastern New Jersey and beyond. A true “family man,” Tom takes pride in his clinic’s warm and welcoming environment.
Tom Willemann

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