The types of disorders that cause the development of joint pain are such a significant public health problem that hundreds of millions of dollars are poured each year into researching cures and therapeutic options. As of this writing, there are only a few methods proven to ease the paint. In fact, Drugs for the treatment of joint pain can be classified as symptom modifying and structure modifying.
The latter category could, in theory, favorably alter the structure of the joint and thus interfere with the progression of the disorder generating the pain. However, no known drugs presently fall into this category. For this reason, a multitude of scientists across the various research centers of the nation, are busy analyzing a plethora of compounds in search of potential structure modifying drugs and a cure to joint pain. Of the many compounds being looked at, Glucosamine stands a class apart and shows significant promise. So what is Glucosamine? And what is it good for?
WHAT IS GLUCOSAMINE?
Glucosamine is an exceptional type of amino-sugar that acts, expressly, as a particular precursor in the process of glycosylation of proteins as well as lipid compounds. Glucosamine is mostly derived from the exoskeleton of crustaceans, in the cell walls of various fungi and in a multitude of other organisms. Factually, glucosamine is the most abundant type of monosaccharide. Commercially, it predominantly synthesized through a process of hydrolysis of the shells of shrimp, lobsters, and crabs.
WHAT IS GLUCOSAMINE GOOD FOR?
Glucosamine exists naturally in our body, specifically in the cartilage tissue and synovial fluid that surrounds the different joints. When we run or walk, the cartilage suffers from small tears and gradually wears off. The effect becomes even more pronounced when intense physical activity is involved and also with age. Rest, under normal health conditions, is enough for the body to repair and regenerate this tissue; however, in patients with specific disorders, the body’s natural process is not sufficient.
Since cartilage is composed primarily of glycosaminoglycan molecules, and these are synthesized through the glycosylation process enacted by glucosamine, taking glucosamine in supplement form can effectively help the body become more efficient at repairing the cartilage tissues and synovial fluids that make up most joints.
Glucosamine can prove most beneficial to individuals dealing with sports injuries, arthritis, knee pain and other disorders that generate cartilage weakness. The BBC investigated the Pros and Cons in their own study here.
For example, Oral glucosamine pills are widely used throughout Europe and the United States to alleviate the intense pain and disability most commonly experienced by patients suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee. Furthermore, because of its ability to build cartilage tissue and lubricate joints through the enhanced synthesis of synovial fluid, oral glucosamine has become, in recent decades, one of the most commonly used components in a substantial number of dietary supplements.
EFFICACY OF GLUCOSAMINE FOR TREATING PEOPLE EXPERIENCING KNEE PAIN
In recent years, a multitude of studies have been enacted on the therapeutic and analgesic effects of glucosamine and glucosamine products on knee pain. Overwhelmingly, these results have provided proof of a positive effect that the use of glucosamine as a supplement in the treatment of arthritic knee pain is highly beneficial.
Perhaps the most conclusive of these studies was conducted out of Australia and published by the BMJ. In this study, a sample of 50 test subjects, each between the ages of 20 and 70 and all suffering from regular knee pain, was analyzed. Of the 50 patients, 27 of them had some degree of cartilage damage and had all undergone confirmed medical procedures in attempts to alleviate the pain.
Subjects were also classified according to the severity of their knee pain. Over 12 weeks the test subjects were administered clinical and functional tests. Patients were instructed to maintain their normal exercise and physical activity habits, if applicable, and were to provide with 2000 mg of glucosamine hydrochloride or placebo in the case of the control group. By the end of the study, 88% percent of participants reported marked improvements in knee pain levels and functional capacity. Additionally, close to half of the subjects were able to report improvements as early as week 4. Joint pain relief exercises by Harvard medical School.
Based on these findings, and those of various similar studies, it becomes obvious that glucosamine supplementation can result in significant relief of knee pain.
BIOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF GLUCOSAMINE ON CELLS AND TISSUES
In a review of more than 20 in vitro studies describing the effects of glucosamine on the body, we observed several relevant properties.
In one study, glucosamine was found to decrease interleukin stimulated the production of inflammatory prostaglandins. Additional studies even suggest that glucosamine is able to exert changes to gene expression.
A substantial amount of research has been done on the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin. One study, in particular, focused on patients with severe osteoarthritis of the knee with daily glucosamine dosing. After 8 weeks, patients were observed to present mild protection of the articular cartilage as well as a reduction in biochemically measured sulfated GAG loss.
As a result, we can conclude that:
- Glucosamine is used by the body for the synthesis of glycoproteins, glycolipids and glycosaminoglycan molecules. These compounds are all found in the tissue that makes up tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and synovial fluid.
- Glucosamine can actively reduce the type of catabolic processes that damage the interior of cartilage tissue by inhibiting the synthesis of proteolysis enzymes.
- Glucosamine ingestion actively inhibits the synthesis of collagenase enzymes that degrade the structures of cartilage tissue.
- Glucosamine also has slightly anti-inflammatory effects.
RECOMMENDED DOSAGE FOR GLUCOSAMINE SUPPLEMENTS
In accordance with the troves of clinical evidence, the following doses have been suggested for the most efficient relief of joint pain:
- TOPICAL GLUCOSAMINE: Topical ointments and creams containing 30 milligrams of glucosamine per gram have proven effective at significantly reducing pain. Topical glucosamine creams will be most effective on joints that lie close to the skin such as knees and elbows.
- INTRAMUSCULAR GLUCOSAMINE: Injected glucosamine can prove a useful therapeutic tool for severe cases of osteoarthritis of the knees. 400 mg of glucosamine injected twice per week should be sufficient until the symptoms subside.
- ORAL GLUCOSAMINE: 1000 mg to 1500 mg taken once a day is the most effective method for the majority of cases of joint pain. Glucosamine can be taken by itself or together with 400 mg of chondroitin.
People with allergies to shellfish should avoid taking glucosamine supplements derived from seafood, and instead should seek vegan glucosamine supplements.
- Towheed, T. E., et al. “Glucosamine therapy for treating osteoarthritis.” Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2.2 (2005): CD002946.
- Houpt, J. B., et al. “Effect of glucosamine hydrochloride in the treatment of pain of osteoarthritis of the knee.” The Journal of rheumatology 26.11 (1999): 2423-2430.
- Clegg, Daniel O., et al. “Glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and the two in combination for painful knee osteoarthritis.” New England Journal of Medicine 354.8 (2006): 795-808.
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