Getting older? Started to feel pain in your knee joints? Well, your friends or family members may recommend you to take a supplement called glucosamine.
Glucosamine is a supplement that people commonly take for joint pain or osteoarthritis. But actually glucosamine is itself a natural compound found in the cartilage.
Image credit: Arthritis
Glucosamine helps to promote the production of synovial fluid, a lubricant for the joints, as well as increasing its viscosity. This helps to maintain your joint health, thus relieving the pain.
However, as we age, the levels of glucosamine in our body drops, which leads to the gradual breakdown of the joint. Hence, glucosamine supplementation is recommended to old-aged people or whoever suffers from joint problems.
Image credit: healthline
Before we discuss the evidence about glucosamine, it is useful to know the different salt forms of glucosamine:
Glucosamine sulphate/sulfate, the most common form
These supplements are not interchangeable. Some form has better evidence in treating a certain condition than the other.
Glucosamine is well-known for its use in easing osteoarthritis pain. But just how true is that?
A large National Institutes of Health (NIH) study, called the Glucosamine/chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT), compared glucosamine hydrochloride, chondroitin (also a type of supplement for joint pain), both supplements together, celecoxib (a prescription drug used to manage osteoarthritis pain), or a placebo (an inactive substance) in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Most participants in the study had mild knee pain. The study reported those who received supplements do not see significant improvement in knee pain of function. However, a small percentage of patients with moderate-to-severe knee pain who took glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin did experience pain relief. The same finding was also observed in another study.
Image credit: MP Biomedicals. This is the chemical structure of glucosamine hydrochloride.
A study revealed that glucosamine sulphate at the 1500mg oral dose once-daily dosage is more effective than placebo in treating knee pain. The same result is also recorded in another study, stating that patients with knee osteoarthritis experience improvement after taking glucosamine sulphate 1500mg once daily for three years. But another study found that glucosamine sulphate did not offer any significant improvement to the patients.
Image credit: Pinehurst Surgical
It is sufficed to say that there is a mix of evidence in terms of the effectiveness of glucosamine in treating knee pain. It’s not uncommon to hear that glucosamine works for some people but not everyone. Hence, if you have unbearable knee pain, and taking glucosamine long-term does not work for you, discuss with your doctors on other more superior treatments for knee pain: steroid injections, NSAIDs, COX-2 inhibitor and hyaluronic acid injections… to name a few.
Image credit: SeniorNews
The usual dosage of glucosamine is 1500mg per day. It can either be taken in one dose as 1500mg or split into three doses, with 500mg each dose, three times daily.
You are encouraged to take glucosamine with meals to reduce gastrointestinal irritation.
There are various dosages available in the market: pure powder, capsules and tablets. For powder form, dissolve it in a glass of water and drink it. As for capsules and tablets, take it with a full glass of water.
If you forget to take your glucosamine, take it as soon as you as remember. If it is almost time for your next dose, wait until then to take the medicine. Do not double the dose.
It is important to manage your expectations when taking glucosamine for joint pain. Glucosamine is not a painkiller, therefore you may only observe improvement after taking it for an extended period of time.
For severe knee pain, it is usually recommended to take 500mg three times daily is for at least 8 weeks. If your condition improves, you may take 500mg two times daily (or according to your doctor’s or pharmacist’s advice) for another 3-4 months.
Here are some of the common glucosamine products sold in the market. Glucosamine is commonly packaged together with chondroitin and hyaluronic acid to improve joint health.
Image credit: iHerb
Image credit: iHerb
Image credit: Shopee
Image credit: Watson Malaysia
Image credit: Watson Malaysia
If your joints hurt and there’s no prior diagnosis from a doctor, please see a doctor first. It’s important to find out what’s causing your joint pain. Some diseases that cause joint pain—such as rheumatoid arthritis—may need immediate treatment. There is no evidence that glucosamine works for rheumatoid arthritis or any other conditions.
Some studies suggested that glucosamine may alter glucose tolerance and increase insulin resistance. In other words, glucosamine may reduce the effectiveness of treatment in some diabetic patients. While the connection is not fully established yet, it is encouraged that diabetic patient who takes glucosamine should monitor their blood sugar level carefully and adjust their dose of insulin accordingly, under the supervision of doctor or pharmacist.
If you are taking blood thinners such as warfarin, glucosamine may increase the anticoagulant effect, thereby raising the risk of bleeding. Therefore, you should notify your doctor or pharmacist about this before taking glucosamine.
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s especially important to talk to your doctor before taking any medication or supplement, including glucosamine or chondroitin.
Cover image credit: Healthline
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