24. Aug, 2017

Glucosamine supplementation for osteoarthritis - what does the evidence say?

A recent systematic review and meta-analysis - the highest form of scientific evidence - of glucosamine effectiveness for knee and hip osteoarthritis pain & inflammation relief, has found it doesn't work any better than a placebo.
 
Sadly for those that have been paying for it (in many cases pensioners who can least afford it) it appears like just another case of very clever marketing.
 
As with so many supplements, it pays to ask a university-qualified nutritionist (who stays up to date with current scientific evidence), before you fork out your hard-earned cash for what is essentially expensive pee.
 
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (eg ibuprofen, diclofenac gel) appear to still be the first line of pain treatment, but due to their side effects may not be suitable for everyone. Paracetamol is another, possible less effective, option and there are topical (capsaicin) creams available as well as hot/cold packs. So always see your GP first for tailored pain relief advice, they can give you a range of options suitable for you as an individual. In addition exercise, supervised by an exercise physiologist of course, is highly encouraged to increase joint mobility, and a university-qualified nutritionist can assist with low-inflammation diet advice.
 
It's rare that simply popping a pill will fix everything, despite the claims of supplement/drug manufacturers. A multi-disciplinary (that is from a range of different health professionals) approach is often far superior, particularly for long term benefits.
 
And remember - no amount of Googling can replace advice from university-qualified health professionals.
 
References:
 
Department of Health 2017, Osteoarthritis medication, Health Direct, <https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/osteoarthritis-medication>, accessed 24 August 2017
 
Runhaar, J, Rozendaal, RM, Middelkoop, Mv, Bijlsma, HJW, Doherty, M, Dziedzic, KS, Lohmander, LS, McAlindon, T, Zhang, W & Bierma Zeinstra, S 2017, 'Subgroup analyses of the effectiveness of oral glucosamine for knee and hip osteoarthritis: a systematic review and individual patient data meta-analysis from the OA trial bank', 10.1136/annrheumdis-2017-211149, Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.