Booster Shots

Oddities, musings and news from the health world

« Previous Post | Booster Shots Home | Next Post »

Study finds that glucosamine is as good as placebo for chronic lower back pain

July 6, 2010 |  1:55 pm

Many people who suffer with lower back pain rely on glucosamine supplements for some relief. But does the stuff really work? A new study shows that glucosamine was no different from a placebo in treating lower back pain.

Hmeledkf The study, released Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., was a large, double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial that included 250 adults with chronic lower back pain. It was conducted at the Oslo University Outpatient Clinic in Norway.

Chronic lower back pain plagues millions of people in the U.S., and treatments include physical therapy, medication and the use of glucosamine supplements. Glucosamine is naturally produced by the body and is found in healthy cartilage. Glucosamine supplements (usually combined with chondroitin) are typically taken for the pain and discomfort that accompanies osteoarthritis, because they are thought to restore cartilage and reduce inflammation.

Some studies have shown the supplement to be effective in treating some joint pain, but others show no benefit.

Among the participants in this study, half were randomly assigned to take 1,500 milligrams of glucosamine for six months, while the other half took a placebo for the same amount of time.

The participants were assessed at the beginning of the study and again at six weeks, three months, six months and one year. They were allowed to continue with their usual pain medication and therapies.

After six months, the test subjects were asked to rate their pain on a 24-point scale. At the beginning of the study, the glucosamine group's pain score was 9.2 on average, and the placebo group's was 9.7. After six months, pain decreased -- but by the same amount in both groups. The glucosamine and placebo groups’ pain scores were both 5.0. At one year, the glucosamine group's score was 4.8, while the placebo group's was 5.5. In both groups, about the same number of people continued to use analgesics and therapies during the trial.

Based on these results, the study authors concluded that recommending glucosamine to people with lower back pain wouldn't be a good idea. However, they added that more research is needed to see if glucosamine might work for some people with chronic lower back pain.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times

Post a comment
If you are under 13 years of age you may read this message board, but you may not participate.
Here are the full legal terms you agree to by using this comment form.

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they've been approved.

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In

Comments (3)

Many studies show that glucosamine plays havoc with blood glucose levels and can lead to the development of insulin resistance-the first step in developing diabetes. It also is linked with atherosclerosis because it alters the lipid profile. It can accelerate diabetic retinopathy and can worsen hypertension. In addition,it causes GI upset and headache.
It has drug interactions: blood thinners, antihypertensives, chemotherapy meds,nsaids, meds for diabetes,tyleno and hebal products. All of the above can be verified thru google searches of research articles.

**Warning for those with shellfish allergies

The vitamin/supplement industry operates outside of FDA control. Glucosamine advertising promotes the belief that it is safe, natural, effective, and without side effects. This is 1 product that should come with a warning label.

Funny how none of these studies remember to point out that radiographic evidence of joint space narrowing correlates quite poorly with pain. Even funnier that this same omission would be brought forward in this paper directly opposite stories about pain. Glucosamine sulfate is shown to slow and even reverse joint space narrowing and destruction of cartilage. Whether or not that results in pain relief, it can only improve joint function.

What seems to get lost in the comparison is the fact that the people in both groups experienced a substantial reduction in pain or in their perception of it. There’s no indication that either the glucosamine or the placebo is harmful. Either way, pain is being relieved, and that’s no small thing.


The Latest | news as it happens

Recent Posts
test |  March 15, 2011, 4:00 pm »
Booster Shots has moved |  July 12, 2010, 6:02 pm »