Glucosamine is a substance that exists naturally within the fluid of the joints. It is seen in the bone marrow, shellfish, in animal bones and in fungi.
Glucosamine comes in different forms which include glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride and N-acetyl-glucosamine. Glucosamine, especially the sulfate form is sourced from the shells of the shellfish. Evidently, it is amongst the supplements for arthritis pain. That is, the joint pills for knees. The two other forms of glucosamine are similar but may not have the same effect as the sulfate. The sulfate form is contained in many joint pain products.
Research results from various studies with glucosamine have examined the benefits of glucosamine health-wise and a significant result was achieved with glucosamine sulfate. The sulfate form of glucosamine is described to have a strengthening effect on the cartilage.
Glucosamine is not approved in the United States for medical use in humans. However, it is classified as a dietary supplement. That is, the evidence as to the safety and efficacy is not required as long as it is not advertised and marketed as a treatment for a particular medical condition.
Glucosamine is usually administered as a dietary supplement to support the structure and function of the joints, especially in individuals who are suffering from arthritis pain (rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis). Glucosamine is usually formulated and sold in combination with other supplements like chondroitin sulfate and methyl-sulfonylmethane.
Chondroitin in the sulfate form is a substance found in cartilages within the body joints. Therefore, chondroitin sulfate is amongst the body building cartilage.
Osteoarthritis is a mechanical abnormality that involves the degradation of the joints. The sub-chondral joints and the articular cartilage are involved as well. Rheumatoid arthritis results in bone deformation especially the small joints of the hand and the feet. Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is systemic (an autoimmune disorder) and affects the linings of the joints which will eventually lead to the previously mentioned joint deformation and bone erosion.
Glucosamine is known to reduce the deterioration of the cartilage, hence relieve one from arthritis joint pain by improving the mobility of the joints. Similarly, chondroitin reduce joint pain as well as inflammation and slows down the progression of osteoarthritis. Several studies have been performed on its use for knee arthritis.
Supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin have been used to prolong the integrity of the joints, hence reduce arthritis pains. Damage to the joints is also minimized by using such supplements.
Most of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs also known as NSAID have been used to counteract inflammatory pains (hip pains, joint pains and other arthritis pain). This means that the NSAIDS are being used as joint pills for knees and for other joint pain. Studies have shown that the combined use of glucosamine and chondroitin can serve the same purpose. That is, both used as supplements can serve as anti-inflammatory supplements for joints.
Owing to its ability to strengthen and revitalize the cartilage, subjects who have joint pains are often given glucosamine for rheumatoid arthritis. There have been other studies which try to proof the effectiveness of glucosamine in alleviating skin problems such as psoriasis, treating migraine and in facilitating the wound healing process. These effects have not been well established. Hence, more research is required in this aspect.
Subjects who are allergic to shellfish are excluded from using glucosamine or any preparation containing it. However, it is reported to be well tolerated up to three (3) years from the time of use.
Osteoarthritis of the hip is known to be a long term pain condition (a chronic condition) where patients are directed to use joint pain products (anti-inflammatory drugs/pain-killers) to improve the condition. These drugs, most at times cause serious side effects such as heart and stomach problems when used for a long period of time. Alternatively, supplements for arthritis pains are employed. One example is the glucosamine for hip pain or combination of sulfate and chondroitin sulfate which have synergistic effect.
The supplements when used alone or in combination with others may not relieve the patients’ symptoms but will reduce pains associated with arthritis of the knee, hip and other joints of the body.