Glucosamine for Back Pain? Maybe Not.
Supplement often taken to ease osteoarthritis strikes out in study
(HealthDay News) -- If osteoarthritis is causing you lower back pain, taking glucosamine probably won't help.
An over-the-counter supplement, glucosamine has become popular among people with osteoarthritis, a painful condition that affects more than 20 million Americans. But a number of studies have concluded that glucosamine is ineffective for treatment for many types of osteoarthritis.
For example, studies published in recent years in the journals Arthritis & Rheumatism and the Annals of Internal Medicine found glucosamine had little or no effect on knee and hip arthritis.
And a study presented at a rheumatologists' meeting last year found that glucosamine did not prevent cartilage loss in people with knee osteoarthritis.
Adding to these findings, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that glucosamine offers little or no relief for people with chronic lower back pain caused by osteoarthritis.
"People with chronic low back pain and degenerative osteoarthritis will not benefit more from glucosamine than placebo for treating their back problem," Philip Wilkens, a research fellow in the orthopedic department at the University of Oslo, Norway, told HealthDay.
He was the lead researcher of the study, which included 250 people with chronic back pain and degenerative lumbar osteoarthritis who were given either 1,500 milligrams a day of glucosamine or an inactive placebo.
At the start of the study, scores on a pain scale were 9.2 for the patients in the glucosamine group and 9.7 for those in the placebo group. After six months, the pain scores for both groups were 5.0. After one year, pain scores were 4.8 for the glucosamine group and 5.5 for the placebo group, a difference that was not considered statistically significant, the researchers said.
From a clinical perspective, "the study demonstrates that glucosamine does not appear to be better than placebo for patients with chronic low back pain and spinal arthritis," Dr. Andrew L. Avins, a scientist in the division of research at Kaiser Permanente Northern California, told HealthDay.
However, the study didn't find that glucosamine caused any ill effects, which means that people who take the supplement and feel it benefits them should be reassured that it's at least not harmful, said Avins, who wrote an editorial that accompanied publication of the Norwegian study.
"The larger implications [of this study] are that we still know very little about how to help most patients with chronic low back pain, and we need much more careful, directed research to help make progress in providing relief to patients with back pain," said Avins, who is also a professor of medicine, epidemiology & biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco.
For people who decide to take glucosamine supplements, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons suggests the following:
Tell your doctor about any drugs or supplements you are taking.
Continue the regimen of diet, exercise, medication or other therapies that your doctor has approved.
Research the products you are considering purchasing before you buy.
Purchase products from a reputable manufacturer.
Report any adverse effects to your doctor immediately.
On the Web
To learn more about choosing pain medicine for osteoarthritis, check out information from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
SOURCES: HealthDay News; Philip Wilkens, M.Chiro, research fellow, orthopedic department, University of Oslo, Norway; Andrews L. Avins, M.D., M.P.H., research scientist, research division, Kaiser Permanente Northern California, and professor, medicine, epidemiology and biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco; July 7, 2010, Journal of the American Medical Association; American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (orthoinfo.aaos.org)
Author: Robert Preidt
Publication Date: July 31, 2011
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