Joint pain is a common problem that many of us simply put up with as part of life. When we are young we strain our joints through exercise and damage the cartilage, resulting in the need for rest and pain relief.
When we are old, that cartilage simply wears down and we are left to deal with stiff, immobile joints, inflammation and conditions like osteoarthritis
In some cases, doctors and therapists might offer a joint fluid injection if you feel that your condition is not improving and you no longer want to rely on pain medication. This procedure involves the injection of artificial lubricants into the knees as a direct approach to rehydrating the tissues and providing greater mobility.
As helpful as these hyaluronan injections can be, there are risks to using needles and it is not the most pleasant experience.
The alternative natural remedy is to turn to one of the other substances found in healthy cartilage and introduce that into the body through oral supplementation.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin Supplementation
There are a few different substances that are commonly used in joint supplements but the two to look out for are Glucosamine and Chondroitin. These substances are naturally occurring components within our joints that work to maintain joint health.
It is, therefore, understandable that supplement manufacturers would look towards these natural ingredients for their products.
Glucosamine is produced in order to build and repair the cartilage between our joints. The molecules used in medication tend to come from the shells of shellfish or crabs. It is often referred to in relation to the health and rehabilitation of knees but there is potential across the body.
These supplements tend to be created from animal sources, which could be an issue for vegetarians, and this time, Chondroitin is often from shark and cow cartilage.
Chondroitin is another important component found within the cartilage in our joints. While Glucosamine repairs tissues, Chondroitin absorbs water to aid with health and lubrication.
Each of these elements can be purchased as separate over-the-counter products, but there are also combined supplements that, in theory, offer double the benefits.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin supplementation have potential benefits for dealing with age-related joint conditions, rehabilitating injuries and helping athletes.
The most common use of products containing these joint-friendly compounds is as a form of pain relief for osteoarthritis and other conditions where the cartilage in the joints has deteriorated with old age.
The premise is simple enough: if patients can replace and repair the cartilage they have lost by using naturally occurring molecules like Glucosamine, they can relieve their pain and potentially enjoy great mobility. Critics point out the lack of hard scientific evidence and minimal results.
The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCD) has classified Chondroitin as “possibly effective” for treating osteoarthritis in the knees and other studies have seen a 10% improvement with time. Some doctors and chiropractors have seen benefits using just Chondroitin alone. For some this is not good enough; for others, it may make all the difference.
Using glucosamine for arthritic pain is just one aspect of using this substance for joint health. Another potential benefit is the use of both of them in rehabilitating joint injuries.
Again, there are those that highlight the lack of science, but studies have shown that the use of Glucosamine & Chondroitin for knee injuries can be beneficial. By repairing cartilage and lubricating joints, inflammation can be reduced and mobility can increase.
One study of patients using Glucosamine for acute knee injuries for 4 weeks showed greater improvement in extension compared to a placebo.
Then there are the athletes that want to avoid damage and injury in the first place.
Sportsmen and individuals committed to regular training put their joints under a lot of strain and it doesn’t take much for the connective tissue in the joint to become torn, sprained or simply worn down with overuse. A little extra strength in the knees could make a lot of difference in training and help people work out for longer.
Studies in animals have shown the potential of using Glucosamine to delay the deterioration of joints and this has led to the increased usage of these products in athletes and bodybuilders.
Joint supplements take time to start working so give it a month while trying the pills, and is this not better than using traditional painkillers with side effects.
The common solution for most problems of pain and inflammation is to take painkillers of varying strengths. In the short term, they can dull the pain and help users continue with the day, but they are not helping to repair the injury or provide any greater support.
Results with Glucosamine & Chondroitin supplementation may be minimal and in need of further testing, but there is the potential for improvements in the health and strength of cartilage.
In addition to this, the potential side effects of these supplements are mild – slight nausea, upset stomach, heartburn or diarrhea – whereas painkillers can become addictive.
All supplements come with warnings about common sense and supervision, but there is still great potential in using Glucosamine Chondroitin supplements for joint health.
The accessibility of supplements like Glucosamine and Chondroitin as OTC products means that it is easy to get hold of a bottle and try it out.
Despite this, it is still a good idea to consult your doctor before taking anything to get a second opinion on what to expect and to make sure that there won’t be any negative effects or interference with medication.
With your doctor’s supervision, you can measure the effects of the supplementation to see if they really are having any desired effect. Results can vary from patient to patient, and there are no guarantees of any significant pain relief or recoveries, but it could help.
Despite these odds, it is still worth considering these joint supplements as an alternative approach to managing pain or protecting your joints because there are potential benefits.
Reliance on painkillers can be dangerous in the long run whereas a naturally occurring substance like Glucosamine or Chondroitin could help to rebuild and strengthen the cartilage in your joints.
This can mean protection against strains and injuries, the ability to speed up rehabilitation and the chance to ease the pain and discomfort of osteoarthritis.