Glucosamine Cream for Knee Pain | How It Works, Safety, and Combinations

Written By on March 22, 2022 — Medically Reviewed By Mich Torres

Written by on — Medically Reviewed By: Mich Torres

Glucosamine supplements have been extensively studied for joint pain. But, what do we know about glucosamine cream for knee pain?

Well, the limited data on the topic shows glucosamine cream may be effective for relieving arthritis pain in the knees. (1)

And like everything, it has its pros and cons. You’ll learn all about them below, plus how it compares to other forms of glucosamine for painful knees.

Here are the topics we’ll cover – tap on any of them to know more:

Does glucosamine cream help knee pain?

Yes, it can. According to research, the topical application of 30mg of glucosamine daily can help relieve arthritis pain. At least, compared to placebo groups. (1)



To reap its benefits, rub this cream on your painful joints 2 to 3 times per day.

And, unless you experience skin irritation or other side effects, make sure to continue this application for at least 8 weeks to see results. (1)

See, using glucosamine in topical form can be a safer alternative than the oral counterpart.

This is because topical glucosamine delivers the supplement directly to the target tissue – the knee joint. It doesn’t have to go through the stomach tract, the liver, and the bloodstream to get there.

So, this means that the risk of side effects is much lower. Yet, a big downside is that it’s less effective than other forms.

Other forms of glucosamine and their effects on knee arthritis pain

There are three forms of glucosamine that are used as supplements:

  • Glucosamine sulfate
  • Glucosamine hydrochloride
  • N-acetyl glucosamine

The first two are the most common, usually found in oral and cream supplements. Their absorption and effectiveness will depend on the route of administration.

Above, we discussed the topical cream route. The other two ways of taking glucosamine supplements are:

Through mouth – Oral glucosamine

The human body organs, highlighting the liver where the oral glucosamine is processed

The oral form of glucosamine sulfate may be the most effective, as the body will absorb more of it. At least, compared to the cream form.

It’s mostly taken in a pill, with a recommended dosage of about 1500mg daily. But, out of that total dose, only a fraction will reach the joint cartilage.

This is because the supplement passes through your liver first. This organ breaks down the glucosamine so it can go through the bloodstream, to then be transported to your knee joints. (2)

But, this lengthy process also increases the risk of side effects. Like having a hypersensitivity reaction or gastrointestinal upset.

Also, it must be used with caution in those with known shellfish allergy, glaucoma, and patients on blood thinners.

Related: Dosage recommendations for treating knee pain with glucosamine

Intramuscular – Injectable glucosamine

Glucosamine is rarely administered as an injection for the treatment of knee pain, due to the fear of serious adverse effects.

So far, only one study has evaluated the role of intramuscular glucosamine. The results were a notable improvement in the patient’s knee pain after injecting this supplement twice per week, for 6 weeks. (3)

But, there’s extremely little research on such an invasive mode of delivery. So, it’s best to stick to oral or topical creams.

Related: Treatment options for knee pain

How to combine glucosamine cream with other treatments

Someone putting an ice pack on their knee joint for pain management

Glucosamine cream is best combined with other treatments to achieve the most pain relief.

For example, you could use the cream with chondroitin sulfate. This could enhance cartilage regeneration.

You can combine the topical application of glucosamine with other treatments for knee pain, such as:

Yet, keep in mind that this supplement won’t ease knee pain immediately. Like NSAIDs or other painkillers do.

FAQs:

Is glucosamine cream effective for knee pain?

Glucosamine cream can be helpful for managing knee pain. (1) It can be particularly helpful to those who experienced allergic reactions or gastric upset with oral supplements.

What are the side effects of glucosamine cream?

Glucosamine cream has minimal risk of side effects. If they happen, they’re usually limited to temporary skin irritation. It should resolve after discontinuing the use.

Conclusion: Can glucosamine cream help knee pain?

Glucosamine is a vital substance for healthy knee joints. It can be applied as a cream to treat knee pain.

Topical glucosamine may provide similar benefits as oral glucosamine for knee pain reduction while having a lower risk of side effects. But, this same quality may make the cream less effective than the pill form.

Still, with so little to lose and so much to gain, glucosamine cream is definitely worth a try.

Resources:

  1. Cohen, Marc, et al. “A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled trial of a topical cream containing glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate, and camphor for osteoarthritis of the knee.” The Journal of Rheumatology 30.3 (2003): 523-528.
  2. Setnikar, I., et al. “Pharmacokinetics of glucosamine in man.” Arzneimittel-Forschung 43.10 (1993): 1109-1113.
  3. Reichelt, A et al. “Efficacy and safety of intramuscular glucosamine sulfate in osteoarthritis of the knee. A randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind study.” Arzneimittel-Forschung vol. 44,1 (1994): 75-80.
  4. Gandek, Barbara. “Measurement properties of the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index: a systematic review.” Arthritis care & research vol. 67,2 (2015): 216-29. DOI: 10.1002/acr.22415

Author
Sony Sherpa (MD)
Sony Sherpa is a board-certified clinical doctor and currently, she is working as a medical officer in the emergency department of a renowned hospital. With a medical degree completed at a young age, she writes medical articles with accuracy owing to her medical knowledge and thorough background research.

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