Glucosamine Does Not Relieve Knee Osteoarthritis
Knee osteoarthritis is a leading cause of pain and disability in middle-aged and elderly adults. Many people who suffer from the disease take dietary supplements of glucosamine and chondroitin, components of cartilage that the body naturally creates to cushion joints.
Some research has indicated that glucosamine and chondroitin, when combined with sulfate, strengthen knee cartilage and reduce the need for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, according to the Mayo Clinic.
However, data recently published online in the journal ” & Rheumatology” suggests that the supplements are not particularly helpful in relieving knee-osteoarthritis symptoms or preventing them from getting worse.
Shibing Yang, PhD, of the Division of Epidemiology at Virginia Commonwealth University led the study. Researchers analyzed the cases of 1,625 patients. Eighteen percent of them received treatments of glucosamine or chondroitin. Their pain, stiffness, function and joint-space widths were not significantly different than that of patients who did not take the supplements.
“Our data join a growing body of evidence suggesting that glucosamine or chondroitin has no impact on relieving OA symptoms,” the study’s authors concluded. “We found that treatment with glucosamine or chondroitin for three years did not appear to bring about relief in symptoms or retardation of disease progression.”
There is no cure for osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis that affects the knee, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. It is a degenerative condition that advances over the years due to wear and tear. That is why most suffers are 50 years of age or older.
As cartilage in the joint deteriorates, bones begin rubbing on each other. This causes pain and, in some cases, bone spurs that increase the discomfort.
The disease’s major symptoms are pain and inflammation. Patients also report weakness and stiffness that make it hard to bend or straighten the knee. The joint may lock, buckle, creak or click as a result of loose cartilage fragments inhibiting knee movements. Other signs include warmth or redness, tenderness, decreased range of motion, joint instability, crepitus (a grinding sensation), and a narrowing of the space between bones in the knee.
Doctors perform physical examinations, conduct diagnostic tests (like X-rays, CT scans, MRIs and bone scans), and sometimes draw blood samples to determine whether patients have knee osteoarthritis. They must make sure a person does not instead suffer from rheumatoid arthritis or another condition.
Many patients find some relief by altering their physical activities. Doctors recommend low-impact exercises like swimming, rather than jogging and other activities that strain the knees.
Losing weight also takes pressure off the joints. Physical therapy involves exercises designed to strengthen muscles, increase mobility and improve knee function.
Assistive devices such as canes, shock-absorbing shoes or inserts, and knee braces and sleeves can make it easier to walk. Patients also alternately apply ice and heat pads, use pain-relieving ointments and creams, wear elastic bandages, and take corticosteroids or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication.
Visco supplementation is the injection of hyaluronic acid, a naturally occurring substance, into the knee to lubricate bones and enhance the joint’s shock-absorbing ability. Other techniques include acupuncture, the use of needles to relieve pain; and magnetic-pulse therapy, the application of an electromagnetic signal.
When such treatments prove to be insufficient, doctors sometimes suggest surgical solutions. In some cases, symptoms can be treated with an arthroscopic procedure, a minimally invasive operation in which tiny cameras and instruments are inserted into the knee through small incisions.
Other types of surgery are grafting, in which healthy cartilage is transplanted from another part of the knee or a tissue bank; and osteotomy, the cutting and reshaping of the tibia (shin bone) or femur (thigh bone) to reduce pressure on the joint.
In more serious cases, total or partial knee replacement (also known as arthroplasty) may be recommended. The surgeon removes damaged cartilage and bone, and implants metal or plastic prosthetic devices.
If you suffer from knee pain, stiffness and impaired mobility, it is important to get a diagnosis and begin treatment before the symptoms worsen. Schedule an appointment for an evaluation by the nationally renowned sports medicine surgeons at Orthopedic Surgery San Diego to learn how to relieve the discomfort and regain full use of your knees.