Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Osteoarthritis Health Center

Font Size

Supplement May Ease Pain of Hand Osteoarthritis

Study Suggests Chondroitin Sulfate Decreases Pain and Improves Stiffness
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Sept. 6, 2011 -- A new study from Switzerland finds the supplement chondroitin sulfate to be effective for relieving joint pain in patients with osteoarthritis of the hand.

Researchers reported that chondroitin both decreased hand pain and improved stiffness. But an osteoarthritis specialist who spoke to WebMD says she is unconvinced.

About 27 million Americans, including one in 10 people over the age of 60, suffer from osteoarthritis. The condition results from bony changes and a loss of cartilage -- the flexible tissue that serves as a cushion between the bones -- in joints.

Chondroitin sulfate, a naturally occurring component of cartilage, is widely used in the treatment of the joint condition.

It is regulated as a drug in Europe but is sold as a dietary supplement in the U.S., usually in combination with another cartilage derivative, glucosamine.

Chondroitin Sulfate for Arthritis Pain Relief

While several studies have found chondroitin sulfate with or without glucosamine to be beneficial for the relief of osteoarthritis pain, others have failed to show a benefit.

Most previous studies have included only patients with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip, says rheumatologist Cem Gabay, MD, of Switzerland's University Hospitals of Geneva.

"Osteoarthritis of the hand is very common and symptoms can range from mild to crippling," Gabay tells WebMD. "That is why we wanted to study chondroitin sulfate in this subset of patients."

The study included 162 patients with hand pain caused by osteoarthritis treated daily with either 800 milligrams of chondroitin sulfate (80 patients) or placebo treatments (82 patients) for six months.

Neither the patients nor the investigators knew which treatment was being given.

At the end of the treatment phase of the study, the chondroitin sulfate patients reported significantly less hand pain than the placebo-treated patients, and they had larger improvements in morning stiffness.

They showed somewhat more improvement in grip strength, although the difference could have been due to chance. They were no less likely than the placebo-treated patients to use acetaminophen to control hand pain.

Gabay characterizes the difference in the two groups as "modest." But he says the study shows a clear benefit for chondroitin sulfate over placebo for the treatment of hand pain caused by osteoarthritis.

Today on WebMD

elderly hands
Even with arthritis pain.
woman exercising
Here are 7 easy tips.
acupuncture needles in woman's back
How it helps arthritis, migraines, and dental pain.
chronic pain
Get personalized tips to reduce discomfort.
Keep Joints Healthy
Chronic Pain Healthcheck
close up of man with gut
man knee support
woman with cold compress
Man doing tai chi
hand gripping green rubber ball
person walking with assistance