Joint Pain Unresolved with Glucosamine and Chondroitin


Over the past 10 years, general practitioners and rheumatologists have commonly prescribed glucosamine and chondroitin supplements to relieve joint pain in patients. Many patients buy the supplements over-the-counter. In 2008, $2 billion worth of glucosamine supplements were sold worldwide — a 60% increase from 2003.

However, in a surprising new study published in this week’s issue of BMJ, researchers wrote that the supplements do not appear to relieve symptoms.

Glucosamine and chondroitin are typically taken in combination or separately to reduce osteoarthritis pain, particularly in the knees and hips. Researchers from Switzerland carried out a large scale review of studies that examined the efficacy of glucosamine and chondroitin.  Ten published trials consisting of over 3,800 patients with diagnosed osteoarthritis of the knee or hip were assessed.

Findings showed no clinically relevant effect of glucosamine and chondroitin on reducing joint point or reducing the narrowing of joint space — used in combination or alone. Simply put: They did not work.

Some patients continue to insist that the supplements work. Have you prescribed either or both to patients and observed a significant benefit?



  1. Like Tom, I have been taking glucosamine sulfate for 15 years. A torn ACL and missing cartilege left me with a diagnosis of knee replacement within 8-10 years. That was fourteen years ago. I golf, bowl and bike ride without pain. I believe it works for me. One thing unmentioned in the article was the type of glucosameine – sulfate or hydrocloride. It also does not mention that chondroitin molecules are large and difficult for older people to absorb, and therefor of little use. I take 2000mg daily and if I miss for several weeks, I become very uncomfortable. I believe it works for me.

  2. I have taken glucosamine and chondroitin for the past 7 years after a smashed my knee in a horse riding fall which left be with a rough knee joint surface. If I stop taking these supplements … after 2-3 weeks I can feel the joint surfaces rubbing together. When I start taking it again it takes about 2-3 weeks for my knee to start feeling normal again.

    Maybe it doesn’t work in this study.
    However it works for me! And that is why I take it!



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