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Glucosamine for Osteoarthitis

Lynne Brown
BSc Hons, HDE, Dip Clin Nutr

“Take your pain pills, lose weight and learn to live with it” is what most sufferers of osteoarthritis will hear from their physicians. Some didn’t have to “learn to live with it” because their pain pills actually killed them!  Luckily, there is a safe, natural, non-drug treatment for joint pain which has been proven to be as effective as drugs but without the side-effects.

What is osteoarthritis?

Simply put, osteoarthritis is a wearing away of cartilage (that gristle at the end of bones) and is related to age and aggravated by weight and injury. In the past cartilage was thought to be an inert (dead) substance and as it wore away, all the physician could do was deal with the pain by prescribing analgesics or anti-inflammatories and recommend weight-loss and muscle strengthening. However our concept now is that cartilage is a very complicated, dynamic tissue, able to withstand stress and repair itself provided it receives the required nutrients from the synovial fluid that bathes the end of the bones.

Enter glucosamine

Known as the Joint Builder, glucosamine is an essential part of the building material for joints, and allows the body to build and repair cartilage, thereby reversing joint damage. What is frustrating is that it has been obvious since 1956 that glucosamine hydrochloride, which contains 83% Glucosamine, is a potential cure for OA. It is the perfect example of glucosamine hydrochloride being a natural, unpatentable compound, therefore there is no profit and it will never have the financial backing accorded new patentable drugs by the pharmaceutical industry. Strangely, veterinarians have been using this remedy for many years.


In the last decade a number of studies have been done in Europe, the Philippines and Thailand and each of these studies have demonstrated that not only does glucosamine improve and modify symptoms but that it is a disease modifying agent, in comparison to the anti-inflammatories which simply cover up the symptoms but do not address the root cause.

It was also reported that when glucosamine was discontinued, the pain relief continued for some weeks thereafter. One study compared glucosamine with ibuprofen. The pain relief provided by ibuprofen was almost immediate in onset and vanished almost as rapidly when the drug was discontinued, whereas the benefit of glucosamine was slow in onset but durable, ultimately becoming better than that provided by the ibuprofen. Another uniform finding was that glucosamine was devoid of any adverse side effects and there were no negative evaluations – in every study glucosamine worked!

Where it works

Glucosamine appears to be particularly effective in protecting and strengthening the cartilage around your knees, hips, spine and hands. Where cartilage has completely worn away it helps to prevent further joint damage. It has been shown to be particularly effective in individuals with osteoarthritis of the knee.

Recommended dosage

The recommended dosage is 500mg, 3 times daily before meals, preferably as glucosamine hydrochloride  which is more easily absorbed than the commonly available glucosamine sulphate form.  It is absolutely imperative to realize that there is often a lag effect of 6 weeks before a positive effect is noted. The patient who abandons treatment before this is doing him or herself a disservice. The six-week lag is the “signature” of glucosamine as it works by increasing the health of the cartilage. There has not been one serious side effect reported with glucosamine and it has no reactions with other analgesics or medications.

Who needs it?

Apart from those with OA, anyone involved in heavy manual work, sport such as hurdling, long distance running where joints are exposed to excessive wear and tear, will benefit by taking a glucosamine supplement. I myself have not suffered joint pain however I take my glucosamine everyday in the belief that it will protect my joints and my teenage son takes it too, not only as a preventive measure but also because it promotes speedier healing of sprains or strained muscles incurred while playing rugby. I usually recommend a supplement called Frame Essentials which also contains MSM, an excellent natural anti-inflammatory.

Further reading: The miracle of MSM

Disclaimer: All information here is for educational purposes only and is not meant to cure, heal, diagnose nor treat. This information must not be used as a replacement for medical advice, nor can the writer take any responsibility for anyone using the information instead of consulting a healthcare professional.  All serious disease needs a physician.

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