Do glucosamine and chondroitin really improve joint health?
November 9, 2004 8:15 AM   Subscribe

For the last couple of weeks, I've tried a vitamin drink (Emergen-C) for the Vitamin C megadose (to kick a cold/flu) and happened to pick the flavor that also advertised "joint health" and contains Glucosamine and Chondroitin. I think a chronic shoulder problem I have has improved. I've done the requisite google search, but so much tends to be aimed towards either selling herbal supplements (it's a miracle cure, click here to buy our product) or debunking them (all non-traditional treatments are snake oil, you gullible fools, now go buy prescription drugs like a good little consumer), I'm having trouble wading through all the agendas for an accurate answer. [mi]

Shoulder details: As far as I know, I don't have arthritis (yet), but my joints do pop quite a bit, and I throw my shoulder out from time to time. I've always attributed it to the fact that I'm double jointed, and as the shoulder is a weak ball and socket joint to begin with, I probably stress it more than it needs. Sometimes it just aches (centered on the joint, sometimes radiating up the neck, sometimes radiating down the arm), sometimes I lose range of motion as well (I can't raise my arm above shoulder height), and it seems to be affected somewhat by stress, weather and (TMI warning) my monthly cycle. Nothing odd shows up on XRays, and I've considered an MRI but never followed through.

Has anyone here actually tried this stuff? For what? Did it seem to work?

Am I probably imagining an effect because of suggestive packaging, or is there a chance this stuff really works?

Everything I find on Glucosamine/Chondroitin is in reference to osteoarthritis; if the supplement is helping with my shoulder, does that mean that what I have is arthritis after all?
posted by Karmakaze to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Certainly not the scientific study you'd prefer, but I've been taking Glucosamine and Chondroitin for years. Joint pain that was chronic and annoying is now 100% gone. Not so much in my knees (everyone in my family has bad knees), but in my shoulders and elbows the improvement is obvious and complete.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:51 AM on November 9, 2004

Best answer: well, i don't know much about the distinction bewteen osteoarthritis and rheumetoid arthitis (from what i understand, osteo- is the degeneration of the joint over time and rheume- is a chronic inflamation unrelated to age) but both my mother and my aged dog take the glucosamine/chondroitin on doctor's (and vet's) orders and both derive noticeable benefit from it. it may be psychosymatic as far as mom is concerned, but i don't think dogs respond to the placebo effect,
posted by crush-onastick at 8:54 AM on November 9, 2004

Best answer: Maybe I should expound on that a bit.

In the early 80s I torn up my shoulder and elbows lifting weights. The pain made doing every day things painful. Carrying groceries, reaching for things over head, etc. My shoulder basically felt like it was partially dislocated, and I could actually feel it pop when I'd reach out at a certain angle.

I started taking shark cartilage because I heard it could help rebuild the damage, and it helped a bit. But it was too expensive and I stopped taking it, and the pain came back. Then I Learned Glucosamine and Chondroitin might have the same effect and I started taking those. The pain is gone and I can't even remember which one of my shoulders was the bad one.

It used to be that even though I could curl 150 pounds my elbows would get sharp pain from carrying grocery bags for several minutes. That's gone as well.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:59 AM on November 9, 2004

Two recent studies—one Canadian, one from the US—showed there is no noticeable benefit in using glucosamine for the treatment of arthritis.
posted by Monk at 9:30 AM on November 9, 2004 [1 favorite]

I'm double jointed

Truly? Really and truly? Or do you just mean you're very flexible?
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:37 AM on November 9, 2004

FWIW, I've had a few physiotherapists recommend glucosamine. I also know several people who have benefited by it.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:37 AM on November 9, 2004

My mother has used Glucosamine and Chondroitin, reporting miraculous results on muscle and tendon problems.
posted by skylar at 10:01 AM on November 9, 2004

Response by poster: Truly? Really and truly? Or do you just mean you're very flexible?

I am capable of joining my hands over my head, elbows locked, and pulling them straight back until they touch the small of my back (when the shoulder's not frozen, of course).

I have no idea whether this qualifies by the technical definition of double jointed, but I do know that it's about 90 more degrees of rotation than the next most flexible person that I know. (Most people doing the same maneuver seem to stop once their elbows are just behind their ears, and a very few can get their arms almost, but not quite, parallel to the ground.)
posted by Karmakaze at 10:21 AM on November 9, 2004

Our vet encouraged us to start giving glucosamine and condroitin to our Boxer-mix, saying that it may help prevent knee surgery due to the joint being a bit misshaped. She's been on it for 5 years and runs her heart out every day. Since we also just adopted a Bernese Mountain dog and know that large dogs are prone to joint issues, we've put him on it too. I guess it's working. No surgery for the Boxer-mix so far.
posted by onhazier at 10:57 AM on November 9, 2004

Hearsay: my brother, a chiropractor who studied at a school that based much of their training in clinical trials, said that glucosamine has demonstrable benefits for most people. I gave it a shot and it worked for me.
posted by weston at 11:57 AM on November 9, 2004 [1 favorite]

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