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How Effective Is Glucosamine for Osteoarthritis?

By Page Coleman
Updated May 17, 2024
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Certain types of glucosamine may be effective for treating particular types of osteoarthritis. For healthy adults, glucosamine is usually a low risk supplement that causes few side effects. It has also been used to treat several other conditions in humans, and it has been used to treat arthritis in animals.

Glucosamine for osteoarthritis has been the subject a number of scientific studies studies. When used to treat osteoarthritis, the glucosamine dosage most frequently studied was 500 mg three times a day, or 1500 mg once a day. The most commonly used and studied type of glucosamine for osteoarthritis is glucosamine sulfate, and sulfate may be especially important for generating cartilage. This chemical occurs naturally in the body, and it is used for producing cartilage, joint fluid, ligaments and tendons.

Results of they studies for using glucosamine sulfate to treat arthritis of the knee indicate it may be effective for that. It may also be effective for osteoarthritis of the spine and hip. Some studied included chondroitin, which is commonly combined with glucosamine supplements, and it may increase the supplement’s effectiveness.

Glucosamine is often available in a either pill or liquid form, to be taken internally. It may also be included in cream that is applied to the skin, though there is little evidence that skin can absorb it. In general, the risks of glucosamine appear to be low for adults when this supplement is used responsibly. Some side effects of glucosamine, such as heartburn and nausea have been reported. Less commonly, glucosamine may cause headaches or sleepiness.

Those who are taking prescription drugs should check with their health care practitioners before taking glucosamine for osteoarthritis or for other conditions. Anyone who is taking blood thinners or cancer medications should be especially cautious about taking glucosamine. Someone who is allergic to shellfish may be concerned because some products are made from crab, lobster or shrimp shells. It isn’t known if taking glucosamine when pregnant or nursing is safe, so women who are breast-feeding or pregnant may wish to forego using it.

Along with assisting people who have osteoarthritis of the knee, spine and hip, glucosamine may help those with arthritis of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). It has also been used to treat glaucoma and to aid in weight loss. For these disorders, however, the evidence does not suggest it is effective.

Uses of glucosamine for arthritis is not limited to humans. Some veterinarians may also suggest glucosamine for osteoarthritis for animals. Dogs and horses in particular may be susceptible to osteoarthritis. Supplementing before the animal shows symptoms may prevent discomfort or lameness.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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