Do you suffer from knee pain and stiffness from osteoarthritis of the knee? If so, there’s a natural supplement that may help. According to a new double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the Annals of Rheumatic Disease, a common supplement available at your local health food called chondroitin sulfate could help slow down the destruction of cartilage in your knee joints.
Osteoarthritis Causes Pain and Stiffness
Osteoarthritis is a common condition that affects up to 7 out of 10 people over 70 years of age. It’s a chronic disease characterized by gradual breakdown of the cartilage that lines joints. Not surprisingly, this loss of cartilage in the affected joints causes pain particularly after weight-bearing or exercise. Typically, people with knee osteoarthritis complain of knee tenderness and stiffness, especially when they first wake up in the morning.
Many people turn to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications to help relieve the aches and pains of knee osteoarthritis, but these medications have side-effects including an increased risk of bleeding from the digestive tract and kidney problems. Recent research shows that people who take them for long periods of time may raise their risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Chondroitin Sulfate: A Non-Prescription Approach to Treating Knee Osteoarthritis
How can chondroitin sulfate help? In this study, participants who took chondroitin sulfate for 6 months experienced less loss of cartilage over a 6 to 12 month time period than those who took a placebo. Researchers used MRI to measure cartilage volume and thickness to get a more objective measure of the effects chondroitin has on joint health. MRI allows cartilage to be directly visualized, so it’s a good test to see whether chondroitin sulfate has measurable benefits, as opposed to simply relying on symptoms.
This was a small study involving only 69 people, but researchers are optimistic that future studies will support the benefits of chondroitin sulfate for joint health. Several previous studies have already shown that chondroitin sulfate slows down the progression of osteoarthritis of the knee and, possibly, other joints as well.
Is chondroitin sulfate safe? Some people who take chondroitin sulfate have side effects such as stomach upset diarrhea and fluid retention. There are a few cases of people experiencing an irregular heartbeat while on it, and there’s also concern that it may worsen asthma symptoms. People who are on blood thinners, are pregnant or who have asthma shouldn’t use it. Chondroitin sulfate can be found at most health food stores and natural food markets. The typical dose for osteoarthritis is between 1,000 and 1,200 milligrams a day.
Chondroitin Sulfate for Osteoarthritis of the Knee: The Bottom Line?
Most medications such as NSAID used to treat osteoarthritis of the knee only reduce pain and inflammation, but chondroitin sulfate may actually slow down progression of the disease and help reduce further cartilage breakdown. Plus, it’s safer than taking NSAID, especially for people who have stomach problems or are at high risk for heart attack or stroke. Talk to your doctor about whether chondroitin sulfate is right for you. It’s a non-prescription way to deal with the pain and destruction of knee osteoarthritis.
Arthritis Foundation. “Cardiovascular Risk and NSAID”
Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2008;16 Suppl 3:S19-21. Epub 2008 Jul 31.
Family Practice News. May 1, 2011. Pages 28-29.