The most popular knee pain supplements on the market today are glucosamine and chondroitin.
Studies show that sales of over-the-counter pills containing glucosamine and/or chondroitin topped the two billion dollar mark last year. The success of these knee pain supplements has gained them worldwide acclaim. It is not unusual to hear these supplements referred to as "miracle cures."
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Unbeknownst to many individuals who swear by the popular supplements, glucosamine and chondroitin are both manufactured by the body. They are substances found in and around the cartilage cells. Studies show that glucosamine helps slowly repair and rebuild cartilage while chondroitin promotes water retention and elasticity of the cartilage. In addition, studies show glucosamine and chondroitin to be as effective as prescription anti-inflammatory medications for knee pain relief, but with fewer side effects. While no supplement can cure pain immediately, studies show glucosamine and chondroitin alleviate much of it over a long period of time. In regards to effectiveness, experts agree that glucosamine is the more effective of the two compounds, and it is also much cheaper than chondroitin.
Side Effects of Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Since glucosamine and chondroitin are classified as "natural" supplements, there are no federal warnings associated with the substances. However, you should always consult with your doctor before taking supplements as they may interfere with prescription medications or adversely affect other medical conditions.
In addition, if you are diabetic, doctors say you should carefully monitor your blood sugar since there have been reports that glucosamine affects glucose tolerance. Experts point out that while glucosamine is a sugar, the body does not convert it into glucose. It is also important to be aware that chondroitin may not be appropriate for patients on blood thinners.
Experts also warn that glucosamine is extracted from the shells of shellfish, so if you have an allergy to shellfish you should not take glucosamine. Consider taking chondroitin instead, as it is made from animal cartilage.
Finally, while studies show glucosamine has minimal side effects, it can cause nausea, indigestion, heartburn, flatulence, diarrhea and constipation. Meanwhile, chondroitin has been shown to cause some minor stomach pain.
Other Knee Pain Supplements
While glucosamine and chondroitin may be the most popular supplements taken to alleviate knee pain, they are certainly not the only ones on the market.
SAMe (S-Adenosylmethionine) Similar to glucosamine and chondroitin, SAMe is manufactured by the body in small quantities. Studies show that SAMe supplements are as effective as anti-inflammatory medication, but take longer to work and are very expensive. This may be why they are used by less people than glucosamine and/or chondroitin.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Studies show that omega-3 has some anti-inflammatory properties, but not nearly as much as glucosamine and chondroitin. Good sources of omega-3 are fish oil and flaxseed oil.
Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is an organic sulfur compound that is found in fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, milk, and animal products. Scientists believe MSM may reduce chronic knee pain and inflammation since sulfur is needed to form connective tissue in the body. Often MSM is combined with glucosamine and chondroitin in a single supplement.
Calcium Experts say more than half of knee pain sufferers have calcium deposits in their cartilage. If you are one of these individuals, you might consider taking calcium supplements. Doctors stress that taking calcium supplements does not cause calcium deposits. In fact, the opposite is true. Every cell in your body needs calcium and if you don't consume enough calcium, your body will extract it from your bones to keep the amount in your blood stream constant. Bottom line: calcium is essential for healthy bones and can help strengthen your knees.
Should You Take Glucosamine and/or Chondroitin?
More than 50 million Americans suffer from knee problems. Most knee pain comes simply from overuse. Too much bending, running and jumping can strain, inflame or rupture your ligaments. If you experience knee pain, doctors say supplements such as glucosamine and/or chondroitin are safe to take. However, they are by no means miracle pills and it could take up to two months before you notice any improvements.
If you are interested in trying glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, be sure to purchase them from a reputable manufacturer (glucosamine and chondroitin supplements are widely available at discount retailers around the world), especially since the government does not strictly regulate dietary supplements. When in doubt, carefully read the label to ensure you are getting what you pay for.