Glucosamine is a popular over-the counter supplement. People take it to decrease pain from their osteoarthritis. In this article, I answer some common questions about the supplement and its uses, possible side effects, and effectiveness.

What is glucosamine?

Glucosamine is a naturally occurring substance in the body. It is thought to lubricate and nourish articular cartilage. People get little from their diets. Therefore, patients take it as a supplement.

Glucosamine pills

What is its role for people with arthritis?

Glucosamine is mainly used to decrease pain from osteoarthritis. Patients usually take it along with pursuing other osteoarthritis treatments, such as activity modification, anti-inflammatory medications, braces, assistive devices for walking, and injections. Some people take it in an effort to prevent the development of osteoarthritis.

Manufacturers of the product often recommend that patients take 500 mg of glucosamine three times per day. Many of the commercially available supplements provide it along with chondroitin. It is thought that it can take up to 6 to 8 weeks before patients see a benefit in pain relief.

What are the side effects?

Glucosamine is generally felt to be safe. Side effects are thought to be rare. Concern exists that the supplement could raise blood sugars in people with diabetes. Some asthma attacks have reportedly been linked with it. Also since it’s produced largely from the shells of shellfish, people with allergies to shrimp, lobster and other shellfish might watch for reactions if they decide to take it.

Can glucosamine help with knee arthritis?

How effective is it?

Many studies show little benefit to glucosamine for osteoarthritis, while some do show moderate benefit. Likewise, many patients with knee osteoarthritis claim it does decrease their pain, while others find no benefit. There is little evidence that shows it can prevent or delay osteoarthritis.

Glucosamine is one of many treatments that some patients use to decrease pain with osteoarthritis. It can be helpful to see an orthopedic surgeon for evaluation of the pain and learning what other treatment options might be available. It is also important to check with your primary doctor before starting any new medication or supplement.