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Knee Pain

Glucosamine and Chondroitin Proven Benefits

By Dr Neil Levin, chiropractor, nutritionist, fitness trainer
The incredible news for those with knee pain: The combination of Glucosamine plus Chondroitin was as effective as the prescription medication Celebrex at relieving knee pain in this new 6 month long study published in the January 2015 issue of Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases (Ann Rheum Dis. 2015 Jan 14. pii: annrheumdis-2014-206792. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2014-206792. [Epub ahead of print]). 

The study, known as MOVES (which stands for Multicenter Osteoarthritis InterVEntion trial with SYSADOA) evaluated 606 patients with knee joint osteoarthritis, average age 62, who had severe knee pain. 

Let’s look at some of the incredible findings after 6 months of supplementation:
Pain was reduced by 50.1% in the Glucosamine plus Chondroitin group (GC) and by 50.2% in the Celebrex group. 
Stiffness was reduced by 46.9% with GC versus 49.2% with celebrex. 
Function improved by 48.0% with GC versus 48.8% with celebrex. 
In both groups knee joint swelling was reduced by greater than 50%
and 79% of the participants in both groups responded well; which basically means that you have an 8 out of 10 chance of getting good results.

Knee Pain fotolia
Bottom line…the combination of Glucosamine and chondroitin was as effective as the prescription drug celbrex at reducing pain, enhancing function and reducing swelling at the knee joint! For a safe nutritional supplement, those are pretty amazing results!  This new study adds to the growing dossier of positive outcomes in multiple studies on the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin.  It is now an indisputable fact that this combination is strongly beneficial for those with osteoarthritis of the knee.

It is important to note that Glucosamine and Chondroitin can take several months to work. One must keep this in mind when beginning to use this combination.  All too often my patients give up to quickly.  It’s not uncommon for me to recommend a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement to a patient and hear that they have already tried it, and it didn’t help.  When I ask how long they ued it, I often hear that they only supplemented for a couple of weeks, or even a couple of months.  Keep in mind that you may have to use a Glucosamine/Chondroitin supplement for 4 to 6 months to fully appreciate the benefits.

Indeed in this study celebrex was superior in terms of pain relief for the first 4 months as it works faster.  Participants were allowed to use acetaminophen for pain during the study.  During the first 4 months participants in the Glucosamine/Chondroitin group took acetaminophen more than those on celebrex; however, by the 6th month, acetaminophen use was equal in both groups, with the use of medication low.  Therefore once you begin supplementation you should have a 6 month time horizon.  I have found that my patients tend to notice benefit within 2-3 months.  However, as this study shows, it takes 6 months for the full benefits to achieved.

Furthermore we must understand the mechanisms at play here.  With celebrex you will achieve fast pain relief; however it does not have a positive impact on the disease progression and degenerative changes brought on by osteoarthritis.  I simply works by blocking the pain message while allowing the underlying destructive process of osteoarthritis to continue.  Therefore if you only take a pain medication like celebrex, you should expect to get worse over time as the degenerative process of osteoarthritis tends to accelerate with age.

Conversely, Glucosamine and Chondroitin reduce pain because they actually stop the destructive process of osteoarthritis in several ways.

  • Studies have demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects for both glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate
  • Both inhibit an enzyme called metalloproteinase which causes cartilage breakdown in the joint
  • Both reduce the release of local hormones called prostaglandin E2 reducing the pain message
  • Both reduce the breakdown of glycosaminoglycans, which are long chains of sugars, in the joint cartilage responsible for attracting and holding water (important for cushioning and shock absorption in the joint).
  • Both stimulate the creation of hyaluronic acid in the joint which also attracts water and maintains the viscosity and slipperiness of the synovial fluid which bathes the joint (think of it as the oil in the joint).
  •  Chondroitin sulfate stimulates collagen synthesis; the underlying structural substance which makes up the bone, cartilage, ligaments, tendons and synovial linings of the joint.

Interestingly, while both glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate each exert beneficial effects in reducing the severity of the underlying processes at work in osteoarthritis, a number of studies have demonstrated that the combination of these substances seem to have a synergistic effect.

Possibly even better news is that several high caliber studies have shown that participants taking the Glucosamine/Chondroitin combination protect their cartilage from the normal wear and tear expected with Osteoarthritis. Advanced X-ray analysis of cartilage at the knee joint shows that participants lost less cartilage if they were taking Glucosamine/Chondroitin versus placebo. For me this is a critical piece of information. I explain to my patients that even if they notice only modest benefit, they should continue to use Glucosamine/Chondroitin daily to protect their joints from the normal wear and tear that comes with the aging process.

In addition, Celebrex and indeed all nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, have significant side effects including gastrointestinal upset and bleeding along with liver and kidney problems. In fact a recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine estimated that at least 103,000 patients are hospitalized per year in the United States for serious gastrointestinal complications due to NSAID use. This study estimated that 16,500 NSAID-related deaths occur among patients with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis every year in the United States. In addition Cox 2 inhibitors like Celebrex have been associated with increased risk of heart attack.

When considering the safety profile of Glucosamine and Chondroitin, which are natural, healthy supplements, this study is wonderful news for osteoarthritis suffers. It literally amazes me that osteoarthritis sufferers can achieve the same pain relief from the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin that they get from celebrex while at the same time improving joint function and reducing further wear and tear. I use it and recommend it to all my patients over 40 that have joint pain.

GC Flex
There are many good Glucosamine supplements available. I have been recommending GC Flex from Purity Products for years. I prefer this
particular supplement as it contains an additional natural anti-inflammatory called 5 loxin, an extract from the boswellia plant. Studies show that 5 loxin can reduce knee pain in as little as 1 week (Sengupta K et al, Int J Med Sci. 2010; 7(6): 366–377. Published online 2010 Nov 1.). Considering the fact that glucosamine and chondroitin can take 3-6 months to reach their peak benefits, users appreciate the faster pain relieving and joint function improving benefits delivered rapidly by 5 loxin.

My patients achieve excellent benefits. I personally notice that my right knee feels great when I use it; however if I stop my knee gets achy within a couple of weeks. Two or three days back on GC Flex and my knee feels great again. The components of GC Flex (glucosamine, chondroitin, 5 loxin) make an excellent combination which seem to work synergistically bringing enhanced joint comfort to my patients.

To try GC Flex simply click here. Alternatively you can look for a similar product on line or at your local health food store. Either way remember to take as directed and stick to the program for a full 6 months. Most of you will be thrilled with your results.