Glucosamine review

It’s a popular alternative treatment for osteoarthritis but does it really work?
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06.CHOICE verdict

The scientific evidence for glucosamine or glucosamine/chondroitin makes it seem doubtful that it's effective at relieving the pain of osteoarthritis.

However, plenty of people who suffer from osteoarthritis think it's worked for them, so it's still worth giving glucosamine and chondroitin a try, even if the only result is the placebo effect. If you get any effect at all, it's likely to take four to six weeks. On the other hand, exercise and weight loss are likely to benefit you more.

Use the Products compared table as a guide to what to choose.

It lists the products in the order of cost per maximum recommended daily dose, so start with one of the cheapest that has a dose of 1500mg/day or more of glucosamine. Avoid any that give you less than 1500mg/day of glucosamine.

If you think it's worthwhile trying the glucosamine/chondroitin combination, only three of the products (highlighted in green in the table) contain the level shown to be effective in the big US trial, and they're among the most expensive per daily dose.


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Other remedies to try

Experts say that lifestyle changes are crucial in successfully treating osteoarthritis.

Regular exercise is one of the most effective treatments with the bonus that it will improve your health generally. Low-impact exercise, with less weight or force going through your joints, is best. Examples are walking, cycling and swimming.

A physiotherapist can suggest targeted exercises to reduce pain and improve the function of the affected joints.

Weight loss from exercise and diet can reduce the severity of symptoms, especially for people with knee osteoarthritis. It reduces the impact load on the joint and can improve joint flexibility and reduce pain.

Alternative treatments

We also checked out some other popular alternative treatments. They're included as an extra in some brands of glucosamine, but none of them has been as thoroughly researched as glucosamine and chondroitin.
Evidence suggests the following products are of little or no benefit:

willow bark
vitamins A, C, E
Here are some products that might help, but for which the evidence is inconclusive:

avocado-soybean unsaponifiables
capsaicin cream
New Zealand green-lipped mussels
ginger extract
As none of these therapies have been thoroughly tested, it's not known if they're safe or unsafe. Always talk to your doctor before trying them. Complementary medicines need to be treated with the same care and respect as prescription medicines. They can cause side effects and interfere with other medicines and make them less effective.

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