Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.
What About Dietary Supplements for Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, affecting approximately 27 million Americans, and is a leading cause of disability in older adults. Because the general population is aging and because obesity—which is a major risk factor of osteoarthritis—is increasing in prevalence, we’re seeing a rise in the occurrence of this condition. The American College of Rheumatology recommends aerobic exercise and/or strength training, weight loss (if overweight), and several medicinal and non-medicinal therapies for treating osteoarthritis.
Many people with osteoarthritis take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or pain relievers such as acetaminophen, or receive corticosteroid injections to help with their symptoms. While these treatments are helpful for many, they are not always effective and may have some unwanted side effects. We know from our research that many people turn to complementary health approaches like dietary supplements to help with their symptoms—about 5 percent of American adults use complementary health approaches for joint pain or stiffness, and 3.5 percent for arthritis.
One of the more popular dietary supplements marketed for relief of osteoarthritis symptoms is glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. Researchers have studied the effects of these supplements on osteoarthritis, but the majority of research has found little effect of glucosamine or chondroitin on symptoms or joint damage associated with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip. We have some new information on our Web site about glucosamine and chondroitin for osteoarthritis, as well as information about other dietary supplements that have been researched for osteoarthritis. I encourage you to check out these resources if you are considering taking a dietary supplement, and be sure to talk with your health care provider about your options. As always, be safe and be well!