Glucosamine Sulfate for Knee Pain: Is It Better Than Other Other Forms?

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

Although widely popular, the effectiveness of glucosamine sulfate for knee pain is still a debated topic among experts.

Glucosamine is a natural component of joint cartilage. It can be taken as a supplement in many forms, one of them being glucosamine sulfate.

Below, you’ll learn how this form of glucosamine works, whether it’s superior to others, and more. Here are the topics we’ll cover – tap on any of them to go to its section:

What is glucosamine sulfate?

Glucosamine sulfate is one of three artificial forms of glucosamine. The other two are:

  • Glucosamine hydrochloride.
  • N-acetyl glucosamine.

Glucosamine itself is a natural substance present in your joints and cartilage. It’s essential for maintaining a healthy joint structure and function.

Learn more: All you need to know about glucosamine for knee pain

Is glucosamine sulfate effective for treating knee osteoarthritis?

An elderly man taking glucosamine sulfate for his knee osteoarthritis pain

Yes, it can be. Multiple studies show taking a glucosamine sulfate supplement can help treat osteoarthritis of the knee. (1, 2, 3, 4)

This supplement may help decrease joint pain in a gradual and progressive way. Over time, it may improve the knee range of motion as well. (5)

It can be taken alone or in combination with other substances. For example, in the form of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements.

Further reading: Benefits of glucosamine with chondroitin for knee health



However, the exact mechanism of how it works isn’t completely understood.

Scientists are trying to understand how taking glucosamine sulfate supplements helps knee pain. They have some hypotheses, though:

  • It may not be able to repair cartilage damage, but it can prevent further damage. (1)
  • It promotes cartilage growth, thus keeping knee joints healthier for longer. (2)
  • It has anti-inflammatory properties, which may also prevent further cartilage deterioration. (3)

Also, keep in mind that these effects aren’t immediate.

Some research suggests that glucosamine sulfate may provide similar results to ibuprofen, one of many nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. (2)

But, it may take longer to provide benefits. This means that taking glucosamine sulfate can be a good medium to long-term strategy for managing mild knee pain.

If you have moderate to severe pain, you can still take it but it likely won’t relieve symptoms fast. It may be best to take other medications for that.

Further reading: 9 science-backed ways glucosamine helps knee pain

Glucosamine sulfate dosage for knee pain relief

For treating osteoarthritis in the knee, the recommended dosage of glucosamine is 500mg to 1500mg per day.

This dose may need to be adjusted depending on your age. Also, the effects may differ from person to person.

Dive deeper: Safe dosage of glucosamine and recommendations

Sources of glucosamine sulfate

Glucosamine sulfate supplements are usually derived from animal and plant sources.

Animal sources include:

  • Crab
  • Lobster
  • Shrimp shells.
  • Shells of shellfish

Non-animal sources include:

  • Vegetables like soybean
  • Minerals like sulfur
  • Seed of palmyra

Who should be careful while taking glucosamine sulfate?

These supplements are generally safe for most people. But specific groups may have to be cautious, such as (5):

  • People with shellfish allergy.
  • Glaucoma patients.
  • Patients taking blood thinners like warfarin, because of a potential drug interaction.

What are the side effects of glucosamine sulfate?

Person with stomach pain as a side effect of glucosamine sulfate

Side effects with glucosamine sulfate intake are rare.

But, taking high doses may cause gastrointestinal upset. This can result in symptoms such as bloating, stomach pain, and changes in bowel movements.

Further reading: The 5 side effects of glucosamine and how to avoid them

Why may you need to take glucosamine sulfate?

Our joints and bones are continuously exposed to wear and tear due to normal use.

Thankfully, when we are healthy, our body is capable of regenerating these tissues at a rate equal to its degeneration.


Knee Force Knee Sleeve

But, as we get older, this regenerative capacity progressively declines. This leads to inflammation, wear and tear, and painful joints.

However, taking glucosamine sulfate can enhance this remodeling cycle. It acts as a sort of fuel to keep our joints healthy and structurally sound.

FAQs

Does glucosamine sulfate really relieve knee pain?

Yes, it can in some people. It works by preventing more cartilage loss and promoting its regeneration. Thus, relieving knee pain and improving mobility.

Does glucosamine sulfate make knee pain worse?

It shouldn’t. If it worsens your knee pain, discontinue its use and visit your doctor. According

Conclusion: Is glucosamine sulfate beneficial for knee pain?

Glucosamine sulfate can be considered a beneficial supplement for knee pain. This is thanks to its ability to protect cartilage from further degeneration.

However, the mechanism in which glucosamine sulfate works isn’t completely understood. It isn’t like other typical pain-relieving drugs, either.

Thus, it can’t provide immediate pain relief. Instead, it slows down the degeneration that can further exacerbate the pain – a process that takes time.

Finally, glucosamine sulfate supplements are generally well-tolerated and have minimal side effects. They’re definitely worth a try.

Resources:

  1. Uitterlinden, E. J., et al. “Glucosamine decreases expression of anabolic and catabolic genes in human osteoarthritic cartilage explants.” Osteoarthritis and cartilage 14.3 (2006): 250-257.
  2. Müller-Faßbender, Hans, et al. “Glucosamine sulfate compared to ibuprofen in osteoarthritis of the knee.” Osteoarthritis and Cartilage 2.1 (1994): 61-69.
  3. Chen, Jiann-Torng, et al. “Glucosamine sulfate inhibits TNF-α and IFN-γ-induced production of ICAM-1 in human retinal pigment epithelial cells in vitro.” Investigative ophthalmology & visual science 47.2 (2006): 664-672.
  4. 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
  5. Noack, Wolfgang, et al. “Glucosamine sulfate in osteoarthritis of the knee.” Osteoarthritis and cartilage 2.1 (1994): 51-59.
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.