Knee pain? Glucosamine may get to the joint
In healthy joints, cartilage acts as a cushion between bones and contains a natural compound called glucosamine that helps in maintenance and repair.
When cartilage breaks down, which can occur with a common joint disorder called osteoarthritis, some people turn to glucosamine supplements. Studies vary on whether the supplements work to slow deterioration or rebuild cartilage, so talk to a doctor first before taking them.
Despite concerns it may raise blood sugar levels in diabetics, studies show glucosamine is generally safe with some side effects reported, such as upset stomach and headache.
"This is still one small piece of a complex (treatment) puzzle," says Dr. Steven S. Overman of The Seattle Arthritis Clinic, a highly rated center in Seattle. Overman sometimes has patients take glucosamine sulfate as part of a broader treatment regimen that can include anti-inflammatory medications.
He also encourages patients to lose weight, and change activities to reduce the burden on joints. "I try to get runners to become bicyclists," he says. Although none of these cure osteoarthritis, Overman says, the combination can reduce pain and lessen the strain on joints.