Glucosamine is a natural and major component of joint cartilage. It’s also a popular supplement for knee problems, so it’s natural to wonder about the glucosamine benefits for knee pain.
Now, the truth is that clinical trials have provided mixed results. Some people may feel improvements in pain, inflammation, and quality of life. Others may not feel much different afterward. (1, 2, 3)
But all studies agree that glucosamine is a generally safe supplement, with minimal side effects. So it’s definitely worth a try.
Below, you’ll know the top 9 benefits that glucosamine can give you. This is what we’ll cover, tap on any of the bullets to learn more:
- 9 ways glucosamine may help knee pain
- What does the research say about glucosamine for knee pain?
- Best glucosamine dosage for knee pain
- Potential side effects of glucosamine
9 ways glucosamine helps knee pain
1) Glucosamine sulfate can keep your knees healthy for longer
Joint cartilage goes through a cycle of degeneration and regeneration. This is a normal, continuous process that’s key for joint health.
This cycle happens without issues in healthy, young people. But in the elderly, this process may not be as efficient as it should be.
This is partly because our body has a limited amount of glucosamine in-store.
This means that at a certain point, we may not have enough glucosamine to regenerate the damaged knee joint cartilage.
In turn, this makes us prone to knee osteoarthritis and other degenerative joint diseases.
So, a good strategy is to consume glucosamine as a supplement. This can help meet the demand for this compound, keeping the integrity of the knee joint intact.
Thus, oral supplementation of glucosamine sulfate can keep your knees healthier for longer.
Further reading: Our complete guide on glucosamine for knee pain
2) It can provide knee osteoarthritis pain relief
Studies show that taking glucosamine on a daily basis can provide a significant improvement in mild knee pain from osteoarthritis. (2)
This can happen after a few months of taking the supplement, though. It doesn’t relieve pain quickly, unlike nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Instead, it acts as a nutrient to help rebuild joint structure after it has been degraded by age or daily wear and tear. Your body needs time to absorb it so it can take effect.
3) Glucosamine can ease rheumatoid arthritis symptoms
In patients with rheumatoid arthritis, glucosamine may help with knee pain. It may also prevent further joint degeneration, too. (1)
This is because this supplement may inhibit the inflammatory process that causes joint swelling in the first place. At least, for people with this condition. (1)
In turn, glucosamine may have a therapeutic and protective effect in people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
4) It can have anti-inflammatory effects with fewer side effects
Glucosamine supplementation may help manage knee joint inflammation, too. (4) It can be a strategy to manage joint pain while avoiding the side effects of painkillers.
See, a major drawback of these drugs is that they may further deteriorate kidney function in people with certain diseases.
For example, some people with rheumatoid arthritis may have kidney problems, too. This makes it harder for these organs to eliminate waste products. (1)
This represents a huge challenge for these patients, because:
Taking painkillers may relieve joint symptoms but harm other organs in the process.
That’s why it can be beneficial to use glucosamine over other drugs, for moderate to severe pain in the knees. This could reduce the harm to the kidneys while easing joint symptoms. (1)
5) Glucosamine can boost healing after a knee injury
Some studies show that glucosamine with chondroitin sulfate can speed up healing after a knee injury. (5)
Researchers believe this happens because our joints need glucosamine to heal. More so if the injury happened in the cartilage.
This can boost the supply of glucosamine, thus enhancing the healing process.
You can take these glucosamine and chondroitin supplements in oral form or through topical creams. Both can be effective for knee joint injuries. (5)
PS: Glucosamine is not the definitive treatment for knee injuries, but it can stimulate the healing process. Make sure to go to a physical therapist to check if your knee is recovering properly.
6) It may prevent knee joint infections from spreading
Synovial fluid is a viscous liquid within our joints. It keeps them lubricated and helps deliver nutrients to other parts of the joint.
Now, certain joint infections can alter the viscosity of this fluid, making it easier for bacteria to spread to other parts of the body.
However, taking glucosamine supplements can help preserve the viscosity of the synovial fluid. Thus helping prevent bacteria from spreading. (4)
That’s how glucosamine can prevent the spread of infections from the knee joints to other sites.
7) Glucosamine can protect your knee joints from further damage
Glucosamine is one of the main building blocks in our cartilage. Our joints need this compound to repair themselves from constant wear and tear due to daily use.
That’s why taking it as a dietary supplement can protect the knee joints from further deterioration. This makes it crucial for treating osteoarthritis.
8) It can help you maximize the benefits of other therapies
Your physician will recommend different treatments, depending on the cause of your knee pain. These can include physical therapy, exercise, injections, or even surgery.
Also, due to its safety profile, you can take glucosamine with other supplements for pain management, such as:
You can also combine this supplement with NSAIDs for greater results with minimum side effects.
9) There are several forms of glucosamine available
Commercially available glucosamine is found either in sulfated or in hydrochloride form.
Although one isn’t better than the other when it comes to their benefits, they do contain different amounts of glucosamine. (6)
Glucosamine hydrochloride contains greater amounts of glucosamine than the sulfated form. Also, the latter contains more salt. (6)
This is something to consider before buying glucosamine sulfate supplements. If you have to reduce your salt intake due to a medical condition, choose glucosamine hydrochloride instead.
What does the research say about glucosamine for knee pain?
Multiple clinical trials have been done to assess the efficacy of glucosamine for knee pain, mostly in osteoarthritis.
For example, joint space narrowing is one of the features seen in patients with knee osteoarthritis. This can improve after taking glucosamine. (7)
But, results aren’t homogenous when it comes to knee pain.
Yet, the general consensus is that glucosamine is a safe drug for most people, with minimal side effects. It’s definitely worth a try.
How much glucosamine should you take for knee pain?
The usual dose of glucosamine for knee pain is 1500 mg per day on a daily basis. This can be taken either in a single or divided dose.
Most people may start feeling its benefits between 10 days to 3 weeks. But this time can vary widely from person to person. (7)
For example, age, gender, and other conditions can promote or delay the time it takes for glucosamine to provide results.
Possible side effects with glucosamine sulfate supplements
Glucosamine side effects are rare. But the most common is some sort of gastrointestinal discomfort – nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
And although glucosamine is generally safe, people with the following conditions should consult with their doctors before taking it:
Glucosamine supplements are made from shellfish and crustaceans. People who are allergic to these foods should avoid taking glucosamine supplements or find vegan-friendly alternatives.
Glucosamine can interact with anticoagulant medications.
Some studies have found that glucosamine may have an impact on blood sugar and insulin resistance. (9) So, diabetics and people with liver diseases should consult their doctors before taking this supplement.
Does glucosamine work for knee pain?
Yes, it may reduce knee pain and inflammation in people with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other joint conditions.
Does glucosamine make knees worse?
It’s highly unlikely. There’s no evidence to suggest that taking glucosamine worsens knee symptoms.
How long does glucosamine take to work?
It can take anywhere from 10 days and 3 weeks to start showing its effects. (5)
Does glucosamine rebuild cartilage?
Yes, it can. That’s why glucosamine supplements can help keep healthy knee joints.
Conclusion: Benefits of glucosamine for knee joint pain
The benefits of taking glucosamine supplements are numerous, and not limited to a simple list. But in knee joints, glucosamine can ease knee pain and prevent further knee injury by:
- Reducing inflammation within the joints.
- Helping rebuild lost or damaged cartilage in the knees.
- Preserving knee function in healthy people.
- Reducing the severity of knee joint swelling seen in septic arthritis and knee osteoarthritis.
- Speeding up healing after traumatic injuries to the joints.
- Nakamura, Hiroshi et al. “Effects of glucosamine administration on patients with rheumatoid arthritis.” Rheumatology international vol. 27,3 (2007): 213-8.
- Ogata, Toru et al. “Effects of glucosamine in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Clinical rheumatology vol. 37,9 (2018): 2479-2487.
- Richy, Florent, et al. “Structural and symptomatic efficacy of glucosamine and chondroitin in knee osteoarthritis: a comprehensive meta-analysis.” Archives of Internal Medicine163.13 (2003): 1514-1522.
- Talent, John M., and Robert W. Gracy. “Pilot study of oral polymeric N-acetyl-D-glucosamine as a potential treatment for patients with osteoarthritis.” Clinical therapeutics 18.6 (1996): 1184-1190.
- Braham R, Dawson B, Goodman C. The effect of glucosamine supplementation on people experiencing regular knee pain. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2003;37:45-49.
- Owens, Stephen, Phillip Wagner, and C. Thomas Vangsness. “Recent advances in glucosamine and chondroitin supplementation.” The Journal of Knee Surgery 17.04 (2004): 185-193
- Hsu, Chia-Hao et al. “Medication-Taking Habit and Outcome of Glucosamine Sulfate for Osteoarthritis Patients Influenced by National Health Insurance Regulations in Taiwan.” Journal of clinical medicine vol. 8,10 1734. 19 Oct. 2019.
- Reginster, Jean-Yves et al. “Current concepts in the therapeutic management of osteoarthritis with glucosamine.” Bulletin (Hospital for Joint Diseases (New York, N.Y.) vol. 63,1-2 (2005): 31-6.
- Simon, R R et al. “A comprehensive review of oral glucosamine use and effects on glucose metabolism in normal and diabetic individuals.” Diabetes/metabolism research and reviews vol. 27,1 (2011): 14-27.