About 45% of adults over 65 suffer from knee joint pain. Among them, 3 out of 5 take at least one dietary supplement for joint pain relief. One of the most popular is glucosamine chondroitin for knee pain and other joint issues. (1, 2)
However, their effectiveness for knee pain is still a debated topic among experts – many believe more research is needed to confirm their benefits.
With that said, several studies show glucosamine and chondroitin supplements are safe and effective for some forms of knee joint pain. (3)
We’ll dive further into this topic below. Here’s what we’ll cover, tap on any of the bullets to go straight to that section:
- Benefits of glucosamine chondroitin for knee pain
- How does glucosamine chondroitin promote healthy joints?
- What is a glucosamine chondroitin supplement made from?
- Dose of glucosamine chondroitin for knee joint pain
- Other techniques to improve knee pain
Are glucosamine chondroitin supplements beneficial for knee pain relief?
Yes, taking glucosamine and chondroitin as dietary supplements can be beneficial to lessen osteoarthritis pain and joint stiffness.
In spite of the controversies surrounding these supplements, physicians usually approve of these supplements as they are safe and may provide some degree of pain relief. (4)
What is known about the effects of glucosamine chondroitin on knee pain?
Multiple studies have evaluated the effectiveness of glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride, and chondroitin for joint diseases with varying results.
Some show these supplements don’t provide more benefit than placebo. While others show significant improvement in symptoms for patients with moderate to severe pain in the joints. (5)
Several small studies on glucosamine and chondroitin supplements have reported other additional benefits, such as (6):
- Reduce pain.
- Anti-inflammatory properties.
- Ability to maintain cartilage structure.
- Regeneration of connective tissues in the knee joint.
However, most researchers agree that further investigation is essential to confirm the benefits of these supplements for treating knee osteoarthritis pain.
How does glucosamine chondroitin promote knee joint health?
A healthy knee joint is defined by the presence of thick, nurtured cartilage, among other things.
As we go about our day, the cartilage provides cushion-like support to our knees while they’re being subjected to continuous stress.
This daily use causes cartilage breakdown. But, healthy people can create new cartilage by combining two natural compounds: glucosamine and chondroitin.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are building blocks that create new healthy joints.
Normally, our body is able to produce these compounds by itself. But, in some people, the production of healthy cartilage can get impaired or become deficient.
In turn, there’s a mismatch between cartilage degeneration and its regeneration. As a result, the tissue will wear off faster which can cause significant disability and pain in the long term.
This is what happens in knee osteoarthritis — there’s not enough healthy cartilage.
This lack of healthy tissue can make your knee joint stiff and prone to pain.
While older adults are more prone to develop this, some younger adults may also suffer from premature joint degeneration.
To counter this, a theoretically sensible approach would be enhancing cartilage repair by supplementing with glucosamine and chondroitin.
Where do glucosamine and chondroitin supplements come from?
Supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin are derived from both animal and plant sources. Most commercially available forms of these supplements are produced from shellfish, crab, and lobsters.
Vegetarians or those with shellfish allergies can consume plant-based glucosamine and chondroitin supplements derived from vegetables and soybean.
How much glucosamine chondroitin should you take for knee pain?
As glucosamine chondroitin supplements for knee pain are not prescription drugs under FDA regulation, there is no definite guideline for appropriate dosage.
But studies that examined glucosamine and chondroitin supplements found that combining 1500 mg of glucosamine and 800 mg of chondroitin is safe and effective for knee pain management. (6)
Learn more: Best dosage of glucosamine for knee pain
Combining glucosamine supplements with other treatments for knee pain
In theory, avoiding cartilage degeneration from occurring in the first place should prevent joint pain. But, seeing how we use our knees with every single step we take, avoiding wear and tear is not a viable approach.
Unfortunately, science has not yet discovered a one-off cure for knee pain. However, several methods can be tried to minimize knee pain and prevent it from affecting your daily routine:
Go to physical therapy
A physical therapist is a healthcare professional that provides treatment for movement and joint-related problems. They identify what’s causing your knee pain and treat it in an individualized way.
Your therapist will give you active and passive treatments combined with strategies to recover as fast as possible.
This can help: Find a qualified physical therapist near you
Knee pain may make you want to stay still and rested all the time, but that is the last thing that you should be doing. Movement-based treatments like aerobic exercise or strength training are proven approaches to heal knee pain. (7)
However, make sure to know your knee’s limits and not over-exert yourself.
Heat and ice
This is a highly effective therapy for knee pain as heat can improve blood flow and relax your muscles while ice can decrease swelling and pain. (8)
Get all the nutrients your knee requires
Say you have hired an architect to build yourself something nice, you have the plans laid out and the workers ready to give their best. But you lack the raw materials to do the actual building, thereby, making all your preparations moot.
A similar process happens with your knees. They require several nutrients to maintain their proper structure and function, like:
So, in addition to taking a balanced diet, you may need to take dietary supplements if these nutrients are low. This will make sure your knees function optimally.
Learn more: Best supplements for knee pain
Lose some weight
According to the Arthritis Foundation, having a high BMI can accelerate osteoarthritis in two ways (9):
- The extra weight places more pressure on your joints
- Fat cells release chemicals that increase inflammation, promoting more joint damage
However, losing just 10% of your weight can reduce joint pain by half and slow disease progression. (9)
Does glucosamine chondroitin work for knee pain?
Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements can be effective for treating knee pain. (3)
Does glucosamine chondroitin rebuild cartilage?
In people with joint pain, taking these supplements may help rebuild cartilage by providing the raw materials essential for cartilage regeneration.
Who should take glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate?
Older adults or anyone with deterioration of underlying causes of joint pain: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or connective tissue diseases.
Conclusion: Glucosamine chondroitin for relieving knee pain
Glucosamine and chondroitin are integral components of knee joints. Healthy knees can regenerate cartilage after an injury using glucosamine and chondroitin synthesized within our body.
But in people with poor cartilage regenerating capacity, taking glucosamine chondroitin may help maintain the cartilage that cushions knee joints and thereby, treat arthritis pain.
- Brooks, Jessica M et al. “Prevalence rates of arthritis among US older adults with varying degrees of depression: Findings from the 2011 to 2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.” International journal of geriatric psychiatry vol. 33,12 (2018): 1671-1679
- Wilson PB. Dietary supplementation is more prevalent among adults with arthritis in the United States population. Complement Ther Med. 2016;29:152-157
- Neil, Kirsten M., John P. Caron, and Michael W. Orth. “The role of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate in treatment for and prevention of osteoarthritis in animals.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 226.7 (2005): 1079-1088
- Robert H. Shmerling, MD. “The Latest on Glucosamine/Chondroitin Supplements.” Harvard Health, 16 Sept. 2019
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The NIH Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT). J Pain Palliat Care Pharmacother. 2008;22(1):39-43
- Zhu, Xiaoyue et al. “Effectiveness and safety of glucosamine and chondroitin for the treatment of osteoarthritis: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” Journal of orthopaedic surgery and research vol. 13,1 170. 6 Jul. 2018
- Abdel-Aziem, Amr Almaz et al. “Effect of a physiotherapy rehabilitation program on knee osteoarthritis in patients with different pain intensities.” Journal of physical therapy science vol. 30,2 (2018): 307-312. doi:10.1589/jpts.30.307
- Brosseau, L et al. “Thermotherapy for treatment of osteoarthritis.” The Cochrane database of systematic reviews vol. 2003,4 (2003): CD004522u
- “How Fat Affects Osteoarthritis.” Arthritis Foundation.