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May 11, 2023
An unwritten rule in life is that as you age, your joints will start getting achy. And since there is no magical anti-aging elixir available, this means aging (and all of its aches and pains) is inevitable for all of us. Ouch.
But, aches and pains aren't solely reserved for the older population, either. Waking up with cranky knees can affect everyone, lifters included. In fact, lifters are prone to joint pain due to the tremendous amount of stress placed on our joints when lifting.
Obviously, joint pain doesn't feel good, and considering we use our joints for pretty much all activities, on top of our daily sweat session, a supplement that swears it can help alleviate this certainly piques our interest.
The supplement we're talking about is glucosamine. So, what does the research say about it? Does glucosamine really help joint pain? And if so, how?
We're about to find out.
Glucosamine is one of the most abundant simple sugars (monosaccharides) found in the human body. It's an amino sugar that is synthesized from glutamine and glucose and acts as a precursor to the formation of compounds called glycosaminoglycans.
Glycosaminoglycans are the building blocks of the tissue cartilage, which is the spongy material that cushions joints. Therefore, the formation of more cartilage depends on the abundance of glucosamine present.
When taking glucosamine in supplement form, glucosamine sulfate and glucosamine hydrochloride, are the two most common types.
In addition, glucosamine is often sold with another compound, chondroitin or chondroitin sulfate. Chondroitin is one of the primary glycosaminoglycans found in cartilage, meaning that glucosamine is also present in it.
Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements are becoming popular due to their ability to improve pain levels through different mechanisms.
Severe joint pain, also known as osteoarthritis pain, is a common ailment seen in older adults, those with degenerative disorders, and highly active people.
Osteoarthritis is one of several degenerative joint disorders in which the cartilage between the joints begins to waste away. This is one of the most common causes of disability and affects about 1 in 7 people in the USA¹.
However, not all joint pain is caused by osteoarthritis. Joint pain could also be caused by the following:
Regardless, the amount of cartilage you possess will have an impact on how susceptible you are to many of these ailments. Lifting heavily to build muscle does not necessarily mean you're going to have joint pain, but it could contribute to it.
Joint pain can be caused by a range of issues. One of the most common causes is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is the breakdown of cartilage, which results in the rubbing of bone and inflammation of a joint.
This is generally found in older adults (40+) as this age group has had more time for more wear and tear to occur. However, it can also be caused by other means, such as:
Lastly, it can also simply be hereditary. In this case, you can try to mitigate the effects by being proactive about the health of your joints.
In the case of many of our readers, overuse through repetitions and using heavy loads can also play a huge factor in the overall pain of joints. For example, knee pain is relatively common in those who frequently squat heavily.
There are a lot of questions that surround the use of glucosamine supplements for joint pain, with the main one being: Does it help alleviate joint pain?
Fortunately, research shows glucosamine does work. In fact, it's one of the supplements we've included on our list of Best Supplements to Alleviate Joint Pain.
A large meta-analysis from 2000 found that glucosamine and chondroitin supplements produced a moderate to large effect in treating osteoarthritis pain2. The analysis did note that some studies may have had issues regarding quality and bias, but nonetheless, beneficial effects do seem to be prevalent.
Another meta from 2018 looked at 18 different studies that examined the effect of glucosamine supplements on participants with knee osteoarthritis and found a "marginally small" advantage for pain relief using glucosamine compared to a placebo³.
Yet another study from 2023 looked at the effectiveness of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate on knee osteoarthritis, also finding a generally favorable effect⁴.
One thing to consider is that the vast majority of studies examine the effect of osteoarthritis pain in the knees. This means that, unfortunately, the effects on other joints, like the elbows, wrists, hips, and shoulders are less known.
However, it's a relatively safe assumption that the effect this supplement has on the knees would be the same for other joints.
Glucosamine works by promoting the production of cartilage.
Cartilage is the tissue that cushions joints so that bone doesn't rub on bone. Maintaining adequate amounts of healthy cartilage will ultimately help prevent joint pain.
Really anyone could benefit from glucosamine.
As mentioned, it promotes healthy cartilage, which everybody needs. That said, a few individuals may have an extra interest in glucosamine supplementation, including:
While glucosamine is a relatively safe supplement, there are a few groups of people who should be cautious.
People with diabetes should be mindful when taking glucosamine, as it's basically a sugar pill, and you could inadvertently cause a massive spike in your blood sugar levels. This will depend on each individual and the progression of their diabetes.
Another group that needs to be extra cautious is those who are allergic to seafood or shellfish. Many glucosamine supplements are made from the crushed-up shells of crustaceans, which is obviously not good if you're allergic. However, the supplement form of glucosamine can also be derived from grains, so be mindful of this when you choose supplements.
Vegans should also be cautious. This, again, is due to the fact that many supplements are made from crustaceans. Depending on how strict you are, you may want to look for a version made from grains.
The last group we want to mention is those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder that arises through genetic and environmental causes. While glucosamine does seem to have some effect, it is not as profound when compared to osteoarthritis pain.
In addition to relieving joint pain, glucosamine provides several other benefits, including:
Side effects, which are usually mild and infrequent, include:
The general recommendation for glucosamine dosage is 1,500 milligrams a day. While some patients may take more or less, that would need to be determined by a doctor.
In short, if you are taking glucosamine on your own account, stick with 1,500 milligrams a day.
Yes. Glucosamine supplements work through the accumulation of its presence in your body. In other words, it requires chronic use.
Due to the various forms of glucosamine, as well as the coupling with other compounds, there is a wide variety of glucosamine supplements on the market.
After taking everything into consideration, our recommendation to reduce pain in the joints is glucosamine sulfate supplements, which also include chondroitin.
Glucosamine and chondroitin have a synergistic effect when compared to glucosamine alone. In addition, glucosamine sulfate tends to outperform other forms of glucosamine, including n-acetyl glucosamine and glucosamine hydrochloride.
Our top pick is Health Nutrition Natural Glucosamine, as it's a glucosamine sulfate supplement that also contains:
Each serving provides 2,100mg of ingredients, including the recommended 1,500mg dose of glucosamine, to support your joint health.
Suffering from knee or hip osteoarthritis (or osteoarthritis of any joint) or general joint pain can be highly frustrating as the pain can be constant with little relief. And it's even worse when you're so close to breaking your squat 1-RM PR and can't because your knees hurt.
In these instances, taking glucosamine dietary supplements to relieve joint pain is certainly worth trying.
When reading reviews of glucosamine, there are hundreds of positive reviews regarding its ability to provide significant improvement for oa pain, and at some point, anecdotal evidence can't be ignored. Such is the case for good glucosamine supplements.
That mentioned, your best bet is to prevent pain from even developing, which you can do by eating a healthy diet, using good lifting form, and refraining from overusing your joints.
In addition, it might not hurt to get started on a pro-active glucosamine regimen before you even get those achy joints!
Interested in taking a supplement for joint pain relief? Check out our article on the 7 Best Joint Pain Relief Supplements to find the best fit for you! And if you're looking for a glucosamine recommendation, Health Nutrition Natural Glucosamine is a great option for both preventative and corrective joint pain relief.
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