Joint pains caused by arthritis are very common complaints worldwide. Huge amounts of money and resources are continually being spent for research towards the alleviation of pain and deformity brought about by the disease. Chronic inflammation of the knees and hips are often debilitating and burdensome for patients and their families. A wide variety of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and other pain relievers have been developed and marketed throughout the years. In the recent decade, glucosamine and chondroitin, which are natural components of cartilage, have been popularly used and prescribed as diet supplements to alleviate joint pains caused by arthritis.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin Found to Be No Different from Placebo
In the latest issue of the British Medical Journal, a network meta-analysis showed that glucosamine and chondroitin, when used alone or in combination were no better in relieving the pain and progression of arthritis when compared with placebo (an inactive substance). The wide scale study was an analysis of 10 different randomized trials which included almost 4000 patients. Whereas other studies in the past provided conflicting results and were composed small samples, this systematic review analyzed methodologically sound trials which came up with the conclusion that may contradict previous reports.
There were no significant differences in pain relief between the two drugs, when used either alone or in combination for patients with hip or knee arthritis when compared with placebo. Radiological or X-ray films did not show significant changes in joint space narrowing, indicating a decrease in progression of the disease, click here for more info.
Are There Any Harmful Effects from Glucosamine and Chondroitin?
No adverse events or harmful effects from either of the two diet supplements were found. Because of this, the investigators are not discouraging their use, but advise against the economic benefit of taking them. Although the use of glucosamine and chondroitin may have a placebo effect and convince many patients of their effectiveness in relieving the joint pains from arthritis, the investigators feel that these substances are not helpful in treating the disease. They do not recommend that cost of treatment from using these substances be covered by health insurance because of the lack of effectiveness in relieving pain or treating arthritis as a disease.
At present, many general practitioners and rheumatologists advise patients to take glucosamine and/or chondroitin based on previous research results showing their potential effectiveness for joint pains. The mechanism of their action is based on their structure modifying and anti-inflammatory effects. They are sold over-the-counter as diet supplements with a recommended dose of 1500 mg per day for glucosamine and 1200 mg for chondroitin, to be taken either as a single dose or in divided doses. They may be used in conjunction with other joint pain medications like paracetamol and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.