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Glucosamine no help with low back pain: study

happyHBmomhhappyHBmom Posts: 2,070
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:45 AM in Pain Management
Taking glucosamine for six months did no more to ease chronic lower back pain than taking a dummy pill, Norwegian researchers said on Tuesday.

They said the widely used treatment appears to offer little benefit to patients whose aching back is caused by degenerative arthritis, and they said doctors should not recommend it for their patients.

Studies of glucosamine, a dietary supplement, have been mixed, with some small studies showing a benefit in certain patients, such as those with osteoarthritis of the knee.

A team led by Philip Wilkens of Oslo University Hospital and University of Oslo did a randomized clinical trial -- the most scientifically rigorous kind -- to see what effect glucosamine had in 250 people over 25 with chronic lower back pain.

They assessed people in the study at six months and again at one year using a pain and disability questionnaire and found no statistically significant difference in scores between the group that took the supplement and the group that took a dummy pill.

"Based on our results, it seems unwise to recommend glucosamine to all patients with chronic lumbar pain and degenerative lumbar osteoarthritis," Wilkens and colleagues wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Andrew Avins of Northern California Kaiser-Permanente in Oakland, California, said in a commentary that given the high quality of the study, the most likely explanation of the findings is that "glucosamine probably offers little benefit for chronic low back pain with osteoarthritis beyond whatever placebo effect it may provide."

Dr. John Markman, a pain specialist at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, called the study a setback because glucosamine "is inexpensive and has few side effects, compared to other treatments."

He said 80 percent of the U.S. population will have back pain in their lifetimes, with U.S. spending about $16 billion a year to treat it.


  • This was a massive new study that just came out.
  • I just started taking glucosamine/chondroiton almost 3 weeks ago so I'll finish off the bottle. It should last for 4 months so I'll see how I feel and if it works or not. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • I've been taking it for years, and my lower back spinal area has now become sore all of the time.
    Both my physio and chiro say I should become more active to prevent the joints locking up and getting stiff. No doubt true, but then I finish up with a sore neck from nerve irritation caused by too much arm movement!
    The best treatment I've found for a sore back is magnesium, which stops the muscles hurting so much.
    But there is still irritation of the joints from the arthritis.
    So, I'd have to agree about the lack of benefit from glucosamine.
  • i give glucosimine to my dog, sirius,who has a hip disability 3 times a day.. :D she is walking better (she had a terrible limp) and can sometimes jump on the bed by herself now. she is only 4 years old but weighs 70#, so this medications has been a blessing for her.. now i don't know how that translates to people but i have seen that it works,, so i will continue to use it, it doesn't hurt me and MAY help! Jenny :)

  • started about a month ago, but I have been having problems with my knees too, especially since my surgery. I think that I am putting stress on my knees as I try to protect my back. It will hopefully at least help my knees. :-)
  • jellyhall, :H we often start to walk different to compensate for our pain and that leads to other problems as you are finding out about your knees! sorry to hear you are having this problem! i have hip and leg problems on the left side because i compensate for the right side.. wish it weren't so!! good luck! Jenny :)
  • for me years ago when I had hip pain. It does nothing for my current pain.

    We tried it on Chewy and to give him enough that it helped he developed "the runs", not good with a 100lb house dog.

    Compensating does lead to problems elsewhere. We had xrays done of chewy about a year and a half before we had to let him go. He had worn out one hip and in compensating for that had worn totally through the "kneecap" on the other side! The vet said Dogs kneecaps are different from ours?

    Didn't mean this to become a dog post...
    Just to end it, Shadow is a total clown. we love him to death. He sleeps at the foot of our bed ALL NIGHT at 5 months, does not go to the bathroom in the house, does not bark or whine. Just a big goofy Chocolate Labradoodle :D
  • This study is specific to lower back, the studies for other joints have been much less clear. And this is just glucosamine, there are other joint supplements that haven't had as much testing, so don't despair!

    Anyway, my ankles are killing me so I'm getting another bottle. I think that the studies on animals have kind of indicated that it's more effective for larger joints more dependent on fluid cushoining (the back is a different kind of joint, no?), and that the supplements mixed with HA and MSM are more effective. Stay tuned for more info as people get with the program and spend more money studying this stuff!

    If you have a supplement that feels like it's working, by all means keep taking it! Usually in large studies there are some people that have some effect. And there's always the placebo effect- if you think it will work, it will work to a certain extent- unfortunately doctors are not allowed to use that, but it's a very powerful effect and it is real!
  • Glucosamine is a natural compound that is found in healthy cartilage. Glucosamine sulfate is a normal constituent of glycoaminoglycans in cartilage matrix and synovial fluid.

    Available evidence from randomized controlled trials supports the use of glucosamine sulfate in the treatment of osteoarthritis, particularly of the knee. It is believed that the sulfate moiety provides clinical benefit in the synovial fluid by strengthening cartilage and aiding glycosaminoglycan synthesis. If this hypothesis is confirmed, it would mean that only the glucosamine sulfate form is effective and non-sulfated glucosamine forms are not effective.

    Glucosamine is commonly taken in combination with chondroitin, a glycosaminoglycan derived from articular cartilage. Use of complementary therapies, including glucosamine, is common in patients with osteoarthritis, and may allow for reduced doses of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents.
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • Is there any cartilage in the spine?
  • happyHBmom said:
    Is there any cartilage in the spine?
    Yes, my doc had told me years ago that the cartilage in my back was wearing away similar to that in my knees... from overuse and injury.
    I found this which explains it better than I could, not sure if I can post from where... so I'm leaving it blank.

    Intervertebral discs -are found between each vertebra. The discs are flat, round structures about a quarter to three quarters of an inch thick with tough outer rings of tissue called the annulus fibrosis that contain a soft, white, jelly-like center called the nucleus pulposus. Flat, circular plates of cartilage connect to the vertebrae above and below each disc. Intervertebral discs separate the vertebrae, but they act as shock absorbers for the spine. They compress when weight is put on them and spring back when the weight is removed.

    Facet Joints
    Joints between the bones in our spine are what allow us to bend backward and forward and twist and turn. The facet joints are a particular joint between each vertebral body that help with twisting motions and rotation of the spine. The face joints are part of the posterior elements of each vertebra. * Each vertebra has facet joints that connect it with the vertebrae above and the vertebrae below in the spinal column. The surfaces of the facet joints are covered with smooth cartilage that help these parts of the vertebral bodies glide smoothly on each other.
  • I think it helps me maybe not so much for pain releif but for a smoother motion of the joint. Ive been taking glucoasmine+msm supplements for 6 months now for facet joint arthritis and tmj in my jaw.
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