Glucosamine For Knee Pain | How It Works, Its Different Forms, And More

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

Person pouring glucosamine tablets on his/her hand

Numerous researchers have studied whether it’s effective to take supplements of glucosamine for knee pain and joint health. And so far, the results are mixed but promising.

See, glucosamine is a natural substance present in our joint cartilage. So, taking this supplement can theoretically help knee pain by promoting the creation of new, healthy cartilage.

But, its benefits as a supplement depend on several factors – the underlying cause of knee pain, which form you take, dosage… That’s why the scientific community remains divided regarding its effectiveness.

Below, you’ll learn everything you need to know about glucosamine for knee pain. Here are the topics we’ll cover – tap on any of them to learn more:

How are glucosamine supplements beneficial for knee pain?

Healthy people can regenerate their joint cartilage after the degradation from daily wear and tear. Their bodies can do that by taking glucose from their diet and transforming it into glucosamine.

But with increasing age, the body may lose its ability to do this. This causes an imbalance between the regeneration and degradation rate in the joints. In the long term, this can cause joint pain.

The good news is that taking glucosamine can counteract this in several ways.

For starters, this supplement can help treat osteoarthritis by preventing the progression of this disease. It does so by boosting the regenerative process of joint cartilage.

Studies show it may also ease joint pain for some people. (1, 2, 3)

And, this supplement can decrease inflammatory markers, too – substances that are indicative of an underlying inflammatory health problem. Their reduction means improving conditions that cause chronic inflammation. (4)

Now, the effects of glucosamine in your body may vary depending on which form you take.



Related: How to effectively treat knee osteoarthritis

The forms of glucosamine and their effects on knee pain

3 different types of pills

Three forms of glucosamine can be effective for treating osteoarthritis: glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride, and N-acetyl-glucosamine.

All of them have the same active ingredient – glucosamine -, responsible for the beneficial effects of these supplements on joints.

And while all of them provide similar results, they have slight differences in their chemical compositions. This can make some forms more adequate than others for certain people.

The main forms of glucosamine are:

Glucosamine sulfate

The majority of the studies on glucosamine have been done using glucosamine sulfate supplements. (5) Some have shown substantial knee pain relief in osteoarthritis patients taking glucosamine supplements, compared to the placebo group. (2)

Glucosamine sulfate simply means the compound contains glucosamine and sulfate, wherein sulfate acts as a carrier of glucosamine.

In this form, glucosamine accounts for 74% of the compound while the rest 26% are salts. (6) This can be of concern to people who are medically required to restrict salt intake. For instance, those with heart failure or hypertension.

Glucosamine hydrochloride

Although most published studies have been on glucosamine sulfate, recent studies with glucosamine hydrochloride have reported significant joint pain relief. (7)

In contrast to glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride does not contain sulfate. It also has a higher concentration of glucosamine, with glucosamine accounting for 99% of the compound. (6)

Glucosamine hydrochloride also contains a lower concentration of salts, making it a heart-friendly alternative to glucosamine sulfate.

N-acetyl glucosamine

N-acetyl-glucosamine (NAG) is a large complex compound. It lacks both sulfate and chloride. Also, NAG is derived from glucose and is a precursor of hyaluronic acid – a chief component of joint tissue.

A study using NAG found it promoted joint tissue repair while preventing joint stiffness and pain after joint injuries. (8)

Further reading: 9 science-based benefits of glucosamine for knee pain

Where do glucosamine supplements come from?

Image of seafood on a plate, symbolizing how most glucosamine supplements for knee pain are sourced from shellfish

Commercially available glucosamine supplements are usually sourced from animals, including shellfish, lobster, or crabs.


Knee Force Knee Sleeve

For vegetarians, plant-based glucosamine supplements are derived from soybeans and other vegetables. These can be also taken by those who are allergic to shellfish.

Related: 11 types of food for pain relief

Dosage of glucosamine for knee joint pain

Glucosamine is a dietary supplement, and therefore there is no officially approved dosage guideline to take it. However, studies have found 1000 to 1500 mg/day of glucosamine to be safe and effective. (2)

Related: Dosage for different forms of glucosamine

FAQs:

Does glucosamine work for knee pain?

Glucosamine can relieve moderate to severe pain in the joints and promote cartilage regeneration in some people.

Is glucosamine effective for treating knee osteoarthritis?

It can be, but it should be combined with other complementary and integrative health care strategies such as physical therapy to obtain maximum benefits.

What is the best glucosamine for the knees?

Glucosamine HCL and glucosamine sulfate are equally effective for mild knee pain. But, glucosamine HCL has a higher concentration of glucosamine and contains less salt, making it a slightly better form of this supplement.

Does glucosamine work topically?

Yes, it does. Research shows that topical application of glucosamine (30 mg/day) helps with arthritis pain.

Related: Glucosamine cream for knee pain

Conclusion: Glucosamine for knee pain relief

Glucosamine is a natural compound that is essential for joint tissue. (1) Due to its role in forming tissue that cushions joints, it has been widely studied and used as a supplement. It can help people with joint pain resulting from knee osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or cartilage damage.

Results from several studies and subjective testimonials from patients have established the role of glucosamine for knee pain as an effective supplement by maintaining joint cartilage structure and function.

Resources:

  1. Persiani, S., et al. “Synovial and plasma glucosamine concentrations in osteoarthritic patients following oral crystalline glucosamine sulphate at therapeutic dose.” Osteoarthritis and Cartilage 15.7 (2007): 764-772
  2. 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
  3. McAlindon, Timothy E., et al. “Glucosamine and chondroitin for treatment of osteoarthritis: a systematic quality assessment and meta-analysis.” Jama 283.11 (2000): 1469-1475
  4. Anderson, J. W., R. J. Nicolosi, and J. F. Borzelleca. “Glucosamine effects in humans: a review of effects on glucose metabolism, side effects, safety considerations and efficacy.” Food and Chemical Toxicology 43.2 (2005): 187-201
  5. Henrotin, Yves et al. “Is there any scientific evidence for the use of glucosamine in the management of human osteoarthritis?.” Arthritis research & therapy vol. 14,1 201. 30 Jan. 2012
  6. 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
  7. Fox, Beth Anne, and Mary M Stephens. “Glucosamine hydrochloride for the treatment of osteoarthritis symptoms.” Clinical interventions in aging vol. 2,4 (2007): 599-604
  8. Tamai, Yasunori, et al. “Enhanced healing of cartilaginous injuries by N-acetyl-d-glucosamine and glucuronic acid.” Carbohydrate Polymers 54.2 (2003): 251-262
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.