Medical doctors have not yet proven the effectiveness of treatments to stop or slow down the progression of osteoarthritis.
The ‘recommended’ treatments are either invasive surgery which unfortunately can have a poor outcome due to many reasons or pain management medication which modern society has become way too reliant on. Studies have proven the short-term relief of these meds, but most people are simply unaware of the numerous extremely dangerous side effects.
Since 1997, dietary supplements, glucosamine, and chondroitin sulfate have emerged as an alternative treatment for patients suffering from osteoarthritis pain. Although many people are aware that taking these supplements can help ease joint pain, most people don’t know why they are effective or how to make the best use of them.
Studies prove the effectiveness of these natural pain-relieving supplements
In a clinical study in China, 178 osteoarthritic participants (knee) were split into 2 groups.
One group received 1,500 mg/day glucosamine sulfate, the other group received 1,200 mg/day ibuprofen. After two weeks, both groups showed symptomatic improvement. However, glucosamine sulfate showed a stronger effect and was better tolerated than ibuprofen (Qiu, G.X. et al, 1998).
Importantly, the more natural glucosamine sulfate had a longer effect as the medication was, of course, a ‘quick-fix’ and would probably eventually cause undesired side effects.
What is Osteoarthritis (OA)?
Osteoarthritis sometimes referred to as ‘degenerative’, or ‘wear-and-tear’ arthritis, occurs when the cartilage in the joints wears down and the exposed bones rub together. This degenerative process causes excess friction in the joints, which leads to pain when weight-bearing, limping, loss of motion, stiffness, flexibility, and strength.
Osteoarthritis worsens with age with its frequency rapidly increasing beyond age 55. It is being seen more and more in much younger individuals, due to sports injuries and repetitive trauma, especially in the shoulder, elbow, knees and hips.
Another reason for the increasing instance of osteoarthritis in younger people is the misalignment of our joints due to the worsening postures of our population. Poor posture means misalignment of our spine and skeletal frame, and misaligned joints simply wear out way, way faster! (SO STAY IN ALIGNMENT!!!)
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are natural compounds found in connective tissues of our body.
They both have important roles in maintaining the joints integrity. When taken as a supplement, small molecules are easily absorbed into the blood and joints. The most important aspect of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements is that they help slow or prevent the degeneration of joint cartilage and help alleviate joint pain. Unlike most medications available to treat arthritis, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements have very few side effects.
Summary of Benefits
Glucosamine sulfate helps with cartilage formation and repair. In addition, it may help protect joint cartilage by limiting breakdown and helping to build up levels of cartilage.
Chondroitin sulfate helps give cartilage its elastic properties. It has an anti-inflammatory effect, which can help to reduce the painful swelling in the joints. Chondroitin sulfate may also help slow the breakdown of cartilage and help restore cartilage growth to better cushion the joints.
Maintain pain-free movement for longer – therefore improved overall health.
All supplements are not equal
Unfortunately, many supplements out there are not as effective as others and the cheaper versions are usually poorly absorbed by the body and therefore less effective.
Many factors will determine the benefits you will feel. Of course, the correct dosage is vital, the extent of your degenerative changes, your age and your daily activities.
Because of this, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate may not provide sufficient pain relief for all osteoarthritic patients. However, many will achieve better results if they are used in conjunction with other activities, such as:
Gentle stretching exercises: this can help maintain flexibility and range of motion as well as reduce stiffness in the muscles and joints. Another gentle form of exercise is the stationary exercise bike, which provides a form of aerobic exercise that is low-impact on the joints.
Water therapy: can help patients with severe osteoarthritis pain. This allows the joints to be non-weight bearing, supported by the water.
Traction for cervical osteoarthritis and manual manipulations (e.g. chiropractic or osteopathy) are highly effective in helping to improve function and reduce chronic or acute pain and other symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Sometimes rest or weight loss may be recommended for certain patients in order to reduce stress on the joints.
The proper course of treatment will differ for each patient and should be supervised by a health professional.
And another great supplement to help your joint pain
Another great dietary supplement to take in conjunction with Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate is fish oil. It is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, containing two important oils, specifically EPA and DHA. Fish oil is anti-inflammatory and has been shown to relieve joint pain and stiffness.
A further study confirms the benefits
A study conducted by Dr Joerg Gruenwald looked at 180 participants that had osteoarthritis. For more than 6 months half of the participants took a glucosamine supplement. While the other half took a combination of glucosamine and Omega -3. Both groups reported reductions in pain and stiffness, but the percentage of people reporting improvement was higher in the glucosamine and Omega -3 group.
“Omega-3 fatty acids inhibit the inflammation process in OA, whereas glucosamine sulfate further supports the rebuilding of lost cartilage substance.” -Joerg Gruenwald PhD
In general, fish oil, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate dietary supplements appear to be very safe. The most common side effects are gastrointestinal in nature, such as an upset stomach, mild nausea, heartburn or diarrhea.
My advice would be to certainly give them a try and please note that taking them with food will reduce the incidence of any minor side effects.