An estimated 27 million Americans suffer fromosteoarthritis pain in the knee or hip, and many treat this pain withglucosamine and chondroitin supplements. These nutritional additions have been marketed as beneficial for jointhealth for over 20 years, but some research suggests that exercise and losingweight could provide more pain relief and better health benefits than takingthe additional supplement.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are amino sugarsfound naturally in cartilage and connective tissue pads of joints. The idea behind taking the supplements isthat they may help repair damage to cartilage overtime. However, during a randomized study doubt wascast on the supplements effectiveness when compared to patients who took aplacebo and experienced similar effects. Both participants on the supplement and the placebo began to exercisemore, and this movement caused a decrease in pain in both parties. But, those taking the supplement showed nophysical change in the condition of their cartilage, or a delay indeterioration, when compared to participants on the placebo.
People in pain are less likely to try andbecome more active, but if taking a supplement or a placebo reduces this painand encourages activity, many doctors feel this could be a good thing. “Far be it from me to take away either theplacebo effect or an idiosyncratic reaction that might be of benefit,” says Dr.David Felson of Boston University. Thegoal of a physician is to decrease overall pain so a patient will engage in thekind of activity which will make a difference in the progression ofosteoarthritis. Losing weight andphysical activity provide numerous health benefits aside from a reduction inpain, and anything that encourages activity could benefit a persons’ health.
If suffering from knee, hip, or other jointpain, it could be beneficial to try a supplement and see if there is any changein pain level. The results may besurprising, and after a few weeks of activity the supplement could becomeunnecessary, but the health changes one has begun will last a lifetime.
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