Glucosamine and Its Effects On Joint Pain

12/22/2021 | 7 min. read

Healthy Directions Staff Editor

Healthy Directions Staff Editor

Joint pain is a common condition that affects millions. It is one of the most common complaints that bring people into the doctor’s office every year.

Typically, as we age, the pain and discomfort we feel in our joints worsen. Our bodies cannot bounce back as quickly as they once did when it comes to joint injuries and excess joint use.

Simply put, joints are essential for mobility and quality of life. That is one reason why it is important to take the proper steps to take care of our joints as soon as possible.

Thankfully, there are supplements, such as glucosamine, that can help you take control of your joint health and help relieve normal age-related joint aches.

A Brief Look at Joints

In simple terms, joints are a movable connection between two bones. These structures connect individual bones and allow them to move against one another during movement. Joints are found throughout our bodies. They are found in positions where your body bends and flexes.

Joint Types

There are also different types of joints, most have mobility, but some are immobile.

  • Pivot joints – This type of joint is found in the neck; they allow limited rotating movements.  
  • Hinge joints – Hinge joints only allow for bending and straightening movements; they can be found in fingers, toes, elbows, and knees.
  • Ball-and-socket joints – Shoulder and hip joints are referred to as ball-and-socket joints; these allow forward, backward, sideways, and rotating movements.
  • Ellipsoidal joints – These joints allow for most types of movements, except for pivotal movements, and are found in the wrists and ankles.

Cartilage

Cartilage is a type of tissue that covers the surface of a bone directly at the joint. This connective tissue helps reduce friction within a joint that comes from movement. Cartilage is quite sturdy, but it is also flexible. Fibrocartilage is an inflexible type of cartilage that is found in the knee. In short, cartilage cushions our joints.

Ligaments

Ligaments are elastic bands of connective tissue that connect bone. These also surround the joint and give support by limiting their movement.

Tendons

Also a connective tissue, tendons connect bones to muscle. Tendons are on each side of the joint and help control their movements to attach to the muscle.

Joints play an essential role in our mobility. When all parts are functioning as they should, joints move seamlessly and fluidly—pain-free. However, injury and aging can disrupt the normal function of joints, leading to pain and discomfort.

About Joint Pain

Joint pain is widespread and can have a variety of possible causes. In general, joint pain can also refer to joint discomfort, aches, and soreness. It can be felt in multiple parts of the body. Joint pain can come and go, e.g., stiffness in the mornings but loosening as the day progresses.

Typically, joint pain is felt in the hands, feet, knees, hips, and spine. Sometimes, people describe their joints as feeling achy, sore, and stiff; in more severe cases, joint pain is described as a throbbing or burning in the joint.

If left untreated, joint pain can also become chronic and permanently impact the function of the joint, limiting a person’s mobility and ability to perform basic tasks. Plus, joint pain can affect other systems of the body as well.

Joint pain can affect anyone, but it is proportionally higher among older adults—years of wear and tear on the joints take their toll. Also, it can affect those who’ve had previous injuries to joints or a history of overuse of certain muscles and joints (especially true for athletes).

Causes of Joint Pain

Again, joint pain can result from injuries, such as broken bones or sprains and strains in the ligaments or tendons. Inflammation of the tendons (tendinitis) can also contribute to joint pain.

However, one of the most common causes of chronic joint pain is arthritis.

Arthritis

Chronic joint pain from arthritis affects millions of people every year. According to the CDC, about one in four adults report having severe joint pain related to arthritis. The prevalence of severe joint pain from arthritis is slightly higher in women than in men and is highest among adults 45 to 64 years of age.

Symptoms of arthritis can include aching, stiffness, swelling, and pain in or around the joints. Arthritis has two main forms, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis

This common joint condition usually affects middle-aged and older adults. This type of arthritis happens over time as the protective cushioning between the bones (cartilage) wears away due to aging and use. This can cause joints to become painful and stiff. It typically occurs in the hand joints, knees, hips, and spine.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

As an autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory type of arthritis that can cause joint pain and swelling. It is a chronic condition that attacks the lining of the joints, causing severe inflammation in the hands, ankles, and knees.

Glucosamine 101

The scientific definition of Glucosamine is a compound that is taken into effect within connective tissues. It is typically used as glucosamine sulfate and is given orally to help treat the breakdown and loss of cartilage.

Being one of the most popular dietary supplements in the United States, glucosamine products can vary in form; they are offered mainly as tablets. Make sure you read any labels of the product you buy, as the dose you should take can vary. There are many different forms of glucosamine; glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride, and N-acetyl glucosamine.

Believe it or not, Glucosamine comes from the shells of shrimp, lobster, and crabs. If you have shellfish allergies, it's best to avoid glucosamine products, medicines that contain Glucosamine, or glucosamine supplements altogether.

If you have high blood pressure, glucose problems, or insulin resistance, it would be best to speak to a healthcare provider before using glucosamine products. A medication that may interact with Glucosamine is warfarin, which is also known as Coumadin.

The effectiveness of glucosamine depends upon the person, as it can pose some side effects.

Here are some side effects of taking oral glucosamine products:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Heartburn
  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation

Seeking relief from joint pain is one of the most common reasons for doctor’s office visits. Thankfully, there are some natural remedies for aching joints. Low-impact exercises, such as stretching and range of motion exercises, can sometimes help alleviate joint discomfort. Proper diet and nutrition also play a crucial role in joint health.

However, there are also several dietary supplements for joint care and health. Glucosamine is among the most popular. Glucosamine is a naturally occurring chemical found within the human body—found within the fluid around the joints.

Naturally, glucosamine is used by the body to produce certain chemicals that aid in the production of tendons, cartilage, ligaments, and the fluid that surrounds the joints. As stated, these can break down over time for people with osteoarthritis, causing joint friction and pain.

Glucosamine Effects on Joint Pain

Glucosamine sulfate, a dietary supplement form, supports joint health and helps improve the function of other connective tissues, such as cartilage. Research has proven its efficacy when it comes to the management of osteoarthritis.

The degeneration of cartilage leads to swelling, pain, and inflammation. Glucosamine also possesses some soothing properties. Also, glucosamine helps protect chondrocytes, which are cells that help maintain cartilage structure.

Further studies have shown that glucosamine sulfate may provide pain relief, help reduce tenderness, and improve mobility in people with osteoarthritis.

Glucosamine is often combined with other joint and bone essentials, such as vitamin D, calcium, and eggshell membrane, to help support healthy joints, joint structure, and cartilage.

The Bottom Line

Joints are an essential component for mobility and quality of life. Unfortunately, joint pain affects millions of people every year. Joint pain is often the result of aging; arthritis is the most common cause.

Osteoarthritis is a form of arthritis and a common condition in older adults. Over time, this condition degenerates the cartilage around the joints, leading to joint discomfort and pain.

Thankfully, glucosamine is one dietary supplement that has proven to have positive effects on joint pain, providing relief from joint discomfort brought about by osteoarthritis.

Sources:

Joint pain | NIH

Joint Pain and Arthritis | CDC

Diseases and Conditions Osteoarthritis | Rheumatology.org

Efficacy and safety of glucosamine sulfate in the management of osteoarthritis: Evidence from real-life setting trials and surveys | NIH

Glucosamine, Chondroitin for Osteoarthritis Pain | Arthritis.org

Glucosamine sulfate for osteoarthritis | NIH

Healthy Directions Staff Editor