Ditch the Glucosamine pills. Start exercising for healthier joints

Evidence for Glucosamine in Treating Knee Arthritis

Glucosamine for Knee Arthritis

A study published in 2015 in the Journal of Arthritis & Rheumatology, does not find any difference between the effects of glucosamine and placebo when taken for knee pain over a four year period. This conclusion was a result of an extensive study carried out on over 1600 people with knee pain. According to the researchers glucosamine and chondroitin did not relieve pain and regenerate the joint cartilage as claimed by their manufacturers.

In fact, another trial carried out earlier in 2010 had come up with similar findings.  The effects of glucosamine were studied on over 600 individuals with knee osteoarthritis. The results showed that though the supplements relieved pain slightly at the onset, they were no more effective than a placebo in the long term. The study was published in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases. Analysis of more than a dozen randomised controlled trials that were conducted between 1994 and 2014 was also inconclusive. None of the studies could prove the benefits of glucosamine on different elements of osteoarthritis such as pain, swelling, cartilage health and mobility issues. The U.S. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence does not include this drug in its guidelines for knee arthritis treatment due to insufficient evidence.

Experts caution against spending money on such yet-to-be proven products. Even the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) does not recommend glucosamine for patients with osteoarthritis as the effects remain questionable. Clinicians are urging individuals with osteoarthritis of the knee, to opt for a healthier and effective alternative such as exercise. Healthy joints can only be achieved through regular exercise. And as a physiotherapist myself, I cannot agree enough.

Is Exercise harmful for Joint Pain?

A low intensity exercise regime is extremely joint friendly. It exerts a healthy stress on the joints. There is a cyclic loading-unloading of cartilage in the weight bearing joints like hip, knee and foot as we exercise.  This increases their blood supply. The pain producing chemicals are washed away and replaced by oxygen and nutrients that help in cartilage regeneration. This reduces pain and promotes cartilage health. Furthermore, exercise strengthens the muscles around the joints. Stronger muscles offset the loads passing through the joint, thus minimising pain.  In addition, exercise maintains flexibility of the joint capsules, ligaments, tendons and muscles around the joint. This prevents joint stiffness.

Link Between Weight Loss and Arthritis Pain

The third and most useful effect of exercise is weight loss. Increased body weight puts greater load on the joints, sparking early degeneration. Every extra kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body mass increases the load on your knee by almost 4 kilograms (nearly nine pounds).
Low impact exercises help to burn the extra flab which in turn reduces pressure on the joints. Research shows that a weight loss of a mere 11 pounds has a positive impact on your joint health. Optimal body weight stalls joint degeneration.

Other proven benefits of exercise:

– A daily dose of low to moderate intensity exercise increases cardiac efficiency, thus regulating your heart rate and blood pressure.

– A 35 minute aerobic workout boosts your lung capacity, bringing in more oxygen and flushing out the carbon dioxide.

– A healthy workout is a tonic for the mind too. All the ‘happy hormones’ released during exercise decrease depression, leaving you relaxed and rejuvenated.

– A weekly 150-180 minute workout keeps you in shape, enhancing your confidence and body image.

– Exercise is a natural immune booster. When done through the year, it decreases your odds of illnesses like cold and flu.

Exercise, when done the right way, has absolutely no side effects. Glucosamine supplements, on the other hand can cause adverse effects like headaches, drowsiness, heartburn, allergic reactions, weight gain, stomach upset, abdominal pain etc. Those who have never exercised should begin slowly and step up the intensity, duration and frequency of exercise gradually. It is advisable to consult a physiotherapist before beginning an exercise routine, especially the first timers.

Manage arthritis with exercise. Stay Active!!

Note: Always consult with your physician before embarking on an exercise program.This blog is brought to you by Naas Physio Clinic.

For more information contact the Physio Clinic on (045) 874682 or email us at info@physioclinic.ie