Alternative Ways to Easing Arthritis Pain
Experts look at the pros and cons of alternative arthritis therapies.
Helpful, Healthy Supplements? continued...
Called the Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention (GAIT) trial, it
involved 1,583 people with osteoarthritis of the knee. They were randomly
placed into five different groups -- each group taking either glucosamine,
chondroitin sulfate, both the supplements, the Cox-2 anti-inflammatory pain
reliever Celebrex, or a placebo.
Overall, researchers found no significant pain reduction in the patients
taking either supplement alone or combined, or in those patients taking a
placebo. The patients with mild pain got no greater pain relief -- whether they
took the combination of supplements, just one supplement, or Celebrex --
compared with those taking a placebo.
However, those with moderate to severe knee pain -- who took a combination
of the two supplements -- reported significantly greater pain relief, compared
with patients taking either Celebrex or a placebo. This group of 354 patients
was too small to prove the findings, researchers said.
What should you do? WebMD asked an arthritis expert. "It seems that
researchers are having a difficult time confirming the beneficial effects of
[glucosamine and chondroitin]," says Robert Hoffman, DO, chief of
rheumatology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
"The good news is the supplements seem to be safe [at the standard
dosage], but it's not clear that they're beneficial. I don't feel compelled to
highly recommend them. But if patients don't mind taking another pill -- and
paying for a pill that may or may not help them -- it seems quite reasonable.
And really, there isn't anything else that helps slow the progression of
Because the quality of herbs and supplements can vary, even some of these
treatments might not work, cautions Tod Cooperman, MD, president of
ConsumerLab.com reviewed supplement products touted for their pain-relieving
benefits. It found that one product, claiming to contain 500 milligrams per
serving of "chondroitin sulfate complex" actually contained less than
90 milligrams of chondroitin sulfate -- only 18% of the 500 milligrams.
"Fortunately, most products contain what they claim," says
Cooperman. "But consumers should choose their supplements wisely. If a
product is not working, it may be the product itself that is flawed, and not