One of the newest treatments for osteoarthritis are two supplements naturally found in the body that are essential to the metabolism of cartilage. These supplements, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, have been claimed to ease pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis. Currently these supplements are in the last stages of clinical testing to show objective improvements. The multi-center study results are due out by the end of this year.
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These supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. There is no quality control of these products, and while Natalie Eddington, PhD, a pharmacist and associate professor in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Maryland, has tested about thirty brands of these two supplements, a few contained significantly less of the substance than the label claimed. To be on the safe side, read all labels carefully and avoid chondroitin made from shark cartilage because the quality is inconsistent. Also, buy these supplements locally and not through the mail. The average cost should be one to three dollars a day and will probably not be covered by insurance.
The recommended dosage is 1,500mg glucosamine and 1,200mg chondroitin per day. If this works, over several months the dosage can be decreased. While glucosamine has been shown in a few studies to ease pain, most chondroitin studies have been done with an injectable form rather than pill form which may not be absorbed as well by the body. These supplements can be taken along with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) for six to eight weeks. After this time, the NSAIDs can be stopped to see whether there is a change in pain or stiffness.
Not everyone will benefit from these supplements. If no change in pain or stiffness is seen within three months, it is not likely a change will ever be seen. Most people in the studies began to benefit from the supplements in six to eight weeks while others only experienced partial relief and still had to take NSAIDs for full relief. Others never showed any relief in the study.
With all new treatments, see your doctor first to see if you’re a candidate for the treatment. Also be sure that these supplements will not interfere with other medications you may be taking, especially those to treat diabetes or blood-thinning medication. These supplements do not treat tumors, stress fractures, rheumatoid arthritis, or gout so be sure your joint pain is attributed to osteoarthritis. These supplements should not be given to children nor should pregnant women take them because there have not been enough studies conducted. Lastly, do not stop proven pain management techniques such as exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, or taking medications prescribed by your doctor.