Glucosamine is a naturally occurring proteoglycan produced by the body and essential for proper joint function. Evidence suggests that not only does glucosamine sulfate help relieve joint pain in arthritis, it may actually help repair damaged joints and prevent the need for surgery.
Glucosamine sulfate increases tissue levels of sulfate, a substance which many scientists now believe is important in the creation of new cartilage glycosaminoglycans. Ironically, acetaminophen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug often taken to treat osteoarthritis pain, actually reduces levels of sulfate in the joints, essentially predisposing patients to more rapid degeneration of joint tissue.
Progressive Joint Degeneration Halved with Glucosamine
A review performed in 2005 found that the weight of evidence from double-blind, randomized, controlled trials of oral glucosamine treatment of knee osteoarthritis (OA) helped reduce the progression of joint disease by 54% (Poolsup et al., 2005). What’s more, the review also noted a 41% reduction in pain and a 46% improvement in joint function. Such effects are thought to be due to glucosamine’s inhibition of inflammatory cytokines, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, prostaglandin E 2, and interleukin 1-beta (Chan et al., 2005, Chou et al., 2005). Reduced levels of these substances would also be helpful to those recovering from spine surgery and glucosamine may even help prevent the need for joint surgery by improving symptoms and repairing joint damage.
Could Glucosamine Halt Spinal Stenosis?
In another study, this time taking place over three years, patients with knee osteoarthritis were given either a placebo or 1500mg of glucosamine daily (Reginster et al., 2001). The 106 patients receiving treatment actually had improvements in symptoms over the three year study, whereas those in the placebo group had significant progression of joint-space stenosis. Although this study was carried out for knee OA it may be surmised that glucosamine supplements could help reduce spinal stenosis progression and delay the need for back surgery while reducing reliance on NSAIDs that actually expedite spine degeneration.
Glucosamine for Lower Back Pain
Foerster, et al (2000), provided further evidence of this potential for glucosamine to help in spine conditions in a study investigating the use of glucosamine sulfate in lumbar spine pain. Lower back pain relief was achieved in those patients taking the supplement in comparison to placebo but it is likely that the poor circulation to the spinal joints may reduce the effects of such supplementation. As spinal arthritis is not always an isolated condition it may be that patients experiencing widespread joint pain that adversely affects mobility could benefit from glucosamine sulfate supplements in order to remain active, maintain healthy circulation and enjoy a better quality of life, without the need for back surgery.