Nutritional Supplements

yWhen it comes to choosing joint supplements there are many options. Use caution when choosing both the supplement and brand. Recent studies have shown that some brands come far short of the label claims. In one study of eleven chondroitin products, tests showed four of the products contained less than half the stated amount of chondroitin. How do you choose a product? The Arthritis Foundation says to pick the most reputable brand--don't try to save with a cheaper imitation.

1) Glucosamine

Glucosamine is an amino acid that is naturally produced in the body. Glucosamine is a precursor to a molecule used in the formation and repair of cartilage. Treatment with glucosamine is based on the idea that oral consumption of the substance may increase to rate of formation of new cartilage by providing more of the necessary building blocks. The recommended dose of glucosamine is 1500mg each day for one to two months. Ongoing treatment if often continued if results are favorable.

2) Chondroitin

Chondroitin is the most abundant glycosaminoglycan in cartilage and is partly responsible for the resiliency of cartilage. Chondroitin is also important in preventing the action of enzymes that destroy cartilage. The recommended dose of chondroitin is 800 mg each day (400 mg twice daily) for one to two months. Ongoing treatment if often continued if results are favorable. Most commonly chondroitin is take in combination with glucosamine.

3) MSM

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is taken because some believe it helps support healthy ligaments.  MSM has not undergone any significant test to support its use. The theory is that the sulfur in MSM helps the body maintain healthy, flexible ligaments.

4) Combination Supplements

Combinations of both glucosamine and chondroitin, and all three aforementioned supplements, are readily available. These combinations are usually cheaper than the individual medications. Use caution when taking these medications.

One of the newest treatments for osteoarthritis are three supplements naturally found in the body that are essential to the metabolism of cartilage. These supplements, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, and methylsulfonylmethane have been claimed to ease pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis. Currently these supplements are in the last stages of clinical testing to show objective improvements.

These supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. There is no quality control of these products. To be on the safe side, read all labels carefully and avoid chondroitin made from shark cartilage because the quality is inconsistent. Also, buy these supplements locally and not through the mail. The average cost should be one to three dollars a day and will probably not be covered by insurance.

The recommended dosage is 1,500mg glucosamine, 500-1000 milligrams (mg) or less twice a day and 1,200mg chondroitin per day. If this works, over several months the dosage can be decreased. While glucosamine has been shown in a few studies to ease pain, most chondroitin studies have been done with an injectable form rather than pill form which may not be absorbed as well by the body. These supplements can be taken along with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) for six to eight weeks. After this time, the NSAIDs can be stopped to see whether there is a change in pain or stiffness.

Not everyone will benefit from these supplements. If no change in pain or stiffness is seen within three months, it is not likely a change will ever be seen. Most people in the studies began to benefit from the supplements in six to eight weeks while others only experienced partial relief and still had to take NSAIDs for full relief. Others never showed any relief in the study.

With all new treatments, see your doctor first to see if you’re a candidate for the treatment. Also be sure that these supplements will not interfere with other medications you may be taking, especially those to treat diabetes or blood-thinning medication. These supplements do not treat tumors, stress fractures, rheumatoid arthritis, or gout so be sure your joint pain is attributed to osteoarthritis. These supplements should not be given to children nor should pregnant women take them because there have not been enough studies conducted. Lastly, do not stop proven pain management techniques such as exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, or taking medications prescribed by your doctor.