Breeze-Courier | Taylorville, IL
weather sponsored by
Hickory Estates of Taylorville

Advanced Search
search sponsored by


home : columns : dr. k May 25, 2016

11/6/2013 10:43:00 AM
Studies bring mixed results for glucosamine and chondroitin

DEAR DOCTOR K: What's the verdict on glucosamine and chondroitin? Do they help relieve osteoarthritis pain?

DEAR READER: Whether glucosamine and chondroitin pills help osteoarthritis pain has been controversial. As with most medical controversies, there rarely is a verdict that everyone accepts.

So I'm not sure there is a verdict yet in this controversy. In fact, I'm going to argue that the controversy may be misguided: It may not be a question of whether these pills help everyone with osteoarthritis or not.

There's no doubt that we need good and better treatments for osteoarthritis. I speak as a sufferer who had a hip replaced because osteoarthritis had destroyed it. Living with arthritis can be challenging, as the pain and stiffness make it difficult to perform daily tasks most people take for granted.

Glucosamine and chondroitin are compounds found in healthy cartilage, which is the tough but flexible tissue in our joints. Joints are the places where two (or more) bones meet, but bone doesn't rub against bone. Instead, in most joints it is the cartilage lining one bone "kissing" the cartilage lining the other.

Osteoarthritis involves the breakdown of normal cartilage. So it makes sense that taking supplements of naturally occurring compounds like glucosamine and chondroitin could help maintain cartilage in people with the condition.

Randomized clinical trials have compared each of these two supplements, alone and in combination, against placebo (dummy) pills in people suffering from osteoarthritis of the hip and knee. An analysis of 10 studies that included nearly 4,000 patients did not find much evidence of reduced pain from glucosamine and chondroitin. Some studies found only a temporary benefit, and only among patients with the most pain. On the other hand, there also was no evidence of side effects from these substances.

And consider this: When a randomized trial does not find that a treatment produces better symptom relief than a placebo pill, that means that the average person in the study got no benefit from the treatment. However, it is possible that some of the people in the study really did benefit.

Over the years, I've had patients tell me they have less pain and stiffness when regularly taking these supplements. If they think it helps, I don't discourage them from taking these pills.

If you're wondering whether you should take them, the answer is, "It depends." If you have moderate to severe osteoarthritis pain, it's reasonable to try the glucosamine-chondroitin combination for two to three months. If you find it eases your pain, it's reasonable to keep using it. If not, you might as well save your money. As always, if you choose to take these or any other alternative treatments, tell your physician.

One caution: Avoid these supplements if you are allergic to shellfish. Some products use shellfish as a source of glucosamine.

(Dr. Komaroff is a physician and professor at Harvard Medical School. To send questions, go to, or write: Ask Doctor K, 10 Shattuck St., Second Floor, Boston, MA 02115.)

Anderson Jewelers

Article Comment Submission Form
Please feel free to submit your comments.

If you are looking for the SPEAK OUT submission form, you can find it by clicking here: Speak Out Form

Article comments are not posted immediately to the Web site. Each submission must be approved by the Web site editor, who may edit content for appropriateness. There may be a delay of 24-48 hours for any submission while the web site editor reviews and approves it.

NOTE: All information on this form is required. Your telephone number and email address will not be displayed or shared.
Submit an Article Comment
First Name:
Last Name:
Anti-SPAM Passcode Click here to see a new mix of characters.
This is an anti-SPAM device. It is not case sensitive.

Trinity Dodge Fixed

NewsWebPagesOpinionPeopleObituariesAg & BusinessSportsContact Us
Subscriptions | Username & Password Reminder | Change Password | Life

Breeze-Courier & Printing | 212 S Main St. Taylorville, IL 62568 | (217) 824-2233 |

© Copyright 2014 Breeze-Courier & Printing. All Rights Reserved.
Original content may not be reprinted or distributed without the written permission of Breeze-Courier & Printing.

Software © 1998-2016 1up! Software, All Rights Reserved