The human body produces glucosamine and chondroitin, which in turn produce the cushion between your joints. The more squishiness you have between your joints, the less pain you feel. So supplements (which are often derived from animals or shellfish) are not “painkillers,” like prescription drugs, but actually help mend the underlying cause of pain.
Most studies on glucosamine and chondroitin show positive results. When top prescription pain relievers (like Vioxx or Bextra) are pulled from the market because of fatalities, and serious doubts shroud Celebrex and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, called NSAIDs (like naproxen and ibuprofen), clinicians become open-minded for the sake of their patients in pain. Almost 70 million people in the United States live with some form of arthritis, and the excruciating cost of that is more than $80 billion a year.
One study recently compared glucosamine to the painkiller acetaminophen, sold under brand names such as Tylenol and Excedrin.
For 24 weeks, 318 patients with knee osteoarthritis took either glucosamine (1,500 mg), acetaminophen (1,000 mg three times a day) or a placebo. People taking glucosamine reported the most benefit for their discomfort and immobility. And there is no risk to the liver with glucosamine, as there is with acetaminophen.
More recently, findings from a study by the Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial proved that the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin was effective in treating moderate to severe knee pain from osteoarthritis; and, the kicker is, these two naturally derived substances outshined our fabulous pharmaceutical, Celebrex, over the course of six months. There were 1,538 people in this notable study. It was funded not by a supplement manufacturer but, rather, the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, Md. A total of $14 million was spent on this project – the largest placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial ever conducted for glucosamine and chondroitin.