Author: Jeremy O’Brien CPT
The natural process of aging can take quite a toll on our bodies. Often, the effects of years of exercise and daily activity manifest themselves in that painful, uncurable condition that is osteoarthritis. As defined, osteoarthritis constitutes the gradual deterioration of the articular cartilage lining the body’s various joints (usually the knees, hips, or fingers). After deterioration of this protective lining, bones of the joint rub against each other, causing pain and, eventually, bony cysts. Although often considered a disease of the elderly, osteoarthritis affects many age groups. In fact, by age forty 90% of the population demonstrates some symptoms of the disease. Unfortunately, physicians have historically had little to combat this so- called “wear and tear” disease, suggesting instead anti-inflammatory drugs, harsh steroids, or simply avoiding activity. In the last few years however, a supplement called glucosamine, a compound normally found in the body’s joints, has provided hope to those suffering from arthritis. But is glucosamine use backed by real science, or simply another scam aimed at the helpless consumer?


Current research on knee arthritis demonstrates conflicting results. Initial research demonstrated that glucosamine supplements decrease pain significantly, while more current literature suggests that glucosamine sulfate in combination with another compound, chond
roitin sulfate, may protect against degeneration of articular cartilage. In fact, these two points are strongly supported by a number of reputable studies. No evidence exists however linking these two compounds with the regeneration of cartilage, which was once a hope. Although research provides hope, a small number of studies refute the claim that glucosamine positively affects arthritis sufferers. Clearly, the massive research study currently being conducted by the National Institute of Health in the U.S. should help clarify the confusion.

The Bottom Line

Despite somewhat controversial results, current research does maintain that glucosamine supplements are likely safe. Before purchasing a product however, consult with a doctor to ensure that osteoarthritis is indeed the cause of knee pain. A myriad of other knee disorders could be the source of pain, and simple physiotherapy or orthotics could fix the problem. If osteoarthritis is the problem and you choose to supplement, choose a reputable company and opt for the liquid form of glucosamine sulfate – this form absorbs much more readily in the body.

To answer the initial question – no, glucosamine does not appear to cure arthritis, although it may very well slow its progression. The best advice for the active individual with minor joint pain is to ensure regular exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate rest. Take care of your joints and they will last you a lifetime!