Saturday, July 10, 2010

As a back pain sufferer, I was interested to read in the July 7th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that glucosamine is not significantly different from placebo for reducing pain-related disability or improving health-related quality of life in patients with chronic low back pain. Years ago I’d tried the dietary supplement without success even though a lot of people swear by it.

Because glucosamine is a precursor molecule involved in building tendons, ligaments, and cartilage it’s widely believed that it helps restore cartilage as well as having anti-inflammatory properties. Despite conflicting data on its efficacy it has been widely used as a treatment for osteoarthritis. Some estimates suggest that more than more than 25% of patients with chronic LBP have tried glucosamine in various forms.

The research was a well-designed clinical study conducted at the Oslo University Hospital Outpatient Clinic using 250 patients with nonspecific chronic pain in the lower back. Patients were randomized to receive either a daily dose of 1500 mg of glucosamine sulfate or identical placebo administered as 3500-mg capsules. (The study design was double-blind cross over). The outcome was measured by a pain scale as well as one to assess quality of life.

Unfortunately low back pain is a significant cause of disability and medical cost in the United States. Too bad it doesn’t seem to have a significant therapeutic effect for relieving the symptoms.

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