Osteoarthritis is a widespread disease that eventually affects the majority of us. The symptoms often feel worse during the wintertime. A European group of experts now recommends glucosamine sulfate as first-line treatment, before painkillers, as glucosamine sulfate is the only remedy that can prevent further progression of the disease and therefore effectively reduces the pain.
More than half of those older than 40 years of age and everyone above the age of 60 are believed to suffer from some degree of osteoarthritis. In many cases, people are completely unaware of it. For that reason, it pays off to prevent the disease by preserving the cartilage tissue or stopping further progression of the disease with help from glucosamine sulfate. But what is osteoarthritis? And how can osteoarthritis in one place lead to symptoms somewhere entirely different? How does glucosamine sulfate work? And how is it possible to improve the treatment during the winter? You will find all the answers if you continue reading.
What is osteoarthritis, and why can the disease be insidious?
Osteoarthritis is characterized by a slow deterioration of the cartilage, causing the bone ends to grind against one another. The missing cartilage is replaced or compensated for by protruding bone growths called osteophytes. Also, the ligaments and joint capsules become thicker, and muscles and tendons lose strength. Osteoarthritis does not necessarily cause pain, and that is what makes the disease insidious. Nonetheless, pain often occurs sooner or later as a result of pressure on the bones, inflammation, and tension and infiltrations.
Creaking and crunching in the joints can often be heard and felt. The afflicted joints may have impaired mobility, and problems like swelling, malalignment, crooked joints, leg length discrepancy, and gnarled fingers and wrists may also occur.
Osteoarthritis in one place may spread by means of fibrous connective tissue (fascia) and cause symptoms in entirely different sites, resulting in e.g. neck osteoarthritis with subsequent headaches, or back osteoarthritis with subsequent leg pain.
Did you know that men more often develop hip osteoarthritis, while women more often get knee and finger osteoarthritis?
Did you know that joint cartilage has no nerve supply, and the pain in osteoarthritis originates from other tissues?
What causes osteoarthritis?
Contrary to popular belief, osteoarthritis is not caused by wear and tear, as regular exercise and correct use of joints actually contribute to the maintenance of joint cartilage. However, excessive stress on joints, poor posture or work-related activities, overweight, genetic predisposition, and ageing processes increase the risk of osteoarthritis. An age-related (enzymatically controlled) cartilage deterioration may occur, especially in the absence of glucosamine sulfate.
Did you know that osteoarthritis in the following places may cause all of these symptoms?
The neck: Neck pain, headache, facial pain, and pain in the arms (e.g. frozen shoulder and tennis elbow)
The back: Back pain, stiff back, lumbago, and leg pain (sciatic nerve)
The hips: Back pain (sciatic nerve)
How does glucosamine sulfate work?
With a combination of sugar (glucose) and the amino acid glutamine, where sulfur (sulfate) is added, healthy cartilage cells are able to produce glucosamine. Glucosamine sulfate serves as the building blocks of joint cartilage. At the same time, glucosamine sulfate engages in certain enzymatic processes that inhibit the breakdown of cartilage. This is why glucosamine sulfate also has anti-inflammatory properties. In the case of osteoarthritis, the production of glucosamine sulfate cannot keep up with the deterioration of joint cartilage, however, but this shortage can be compensated for with supplementation.
Not all forms of glucosamine are equally good
Glucosamine sulfate has been used to treat osteoarthritis since the 1980s, and the majority of research is conducted with this form of glucosamine. Glucosamine products based on glucosamine hydrochloride have not shown the same positive results, and that is why the efficacy of glucosamine has been questioned by some experts in the past.
New report gives glucosamine sulfate a comeback
In a new report, supplements of glucosamine sulfate are recommended as first-line treatment for osteoarthritis before using pain-relieving medication that is associated with adverse effects and mortality. The report is issued by an economically independent group of experts called ESCEO (European Society for Clinical and Economic Aspects of Osteoarthritis). The affiliated researchers scrutinized the available literature on glucosamine and found, just like many other researchers, that glucosamine sulfate is the most effective form of glucosamine, which is why they point specifically to the sulfate form in their report.
Glucosamine sulfate supplements and their expected effect
Glucosamine sulfate is primarily manufactured from shellfish. Most studies of the product are conducted using a daily dosage of 1,200-1,500 mg. Most people notice a pain-relieving effect or improved joint functioning within two to six seeks. Some do not register an effect until 12 weeks have passed. In situations where glucosamine sulfate has a positive effect within three months, it is advisable to continue using the treatment. If, on the other hand, no effect is seen within this period of time, is does not make sense to continue.
Glucosamine sulfate is effective for treating slight to moderate osteoarthritis where a certain amount of joint cartilage remains as a pad or matrix to "build on". Many people even find that the effect of the treatment extends beyond the symptoms which relate to the osteoarthritis itself. This is because osteoarthritis, as mentioned earlier, may spread to other parts of the body, the problems that arise here will then benefit when the cartilage in the affected joint is restored and the inflammation disappears.
Vitamin D, fish oil, and herbal supplements counteract inflammation but not the osteoarthritis itself
Many people with osteoarthritis feel that their symptoms worsen during the winter period. That is often because they lack vitamin D, which we humans primarily produce during summer. High-dosed vitamin D supplements may help reduce the inflammation that occurs with osteoarthritis. The same is the case with fish oil and certain herbs such as ginger and rosehips. However, in connection with osteoarthritis, these supplements should always be combined with glucosamine sulfate, which is the only remedy that is able to rebuild the cartilage and deliver a long-term effect.
Remember - only glucosamine sulfate is able to stop the actual disease
Although many preparations are able to subdue pain in osteoarthritis sufferers, it is only glucosamine sulfate preparations that can stop the actual disease, which is a deterioration of joint cartilage. Pain is the unfortunate implication and will not disappear unless the deterioration itself comes to a halt. Always make sure to use glucosamine sulfate.
Nelson AE et al.: A systematic review of recommendations and guidelines for the management of osteoarthritis: The Chronic Osteoarthritis Management Initiative of the U.S Bone and Joint initiative. PubMed 2014
Keld Østergaard. Glukosaminsulfat. Medi-Com 2003