The normal articular cartilage in our joints has a smooth surface that allows movements between the bones with minimal friction. It also serves as a cushion to distribute the stresses evenly on the bones beneath it.
In cases of joint osteoarthritis, the surface of the cartilage lose its smoothness due to breakdown in its substance. This leads to increased forces over the underlying bone and eventually damage to the whole joint. The treatment of this condition depends mainly on lifestyle modifications such as losing weight and changing daily activities. Also, medical treatment may be used to help relieve the pain and the inflammation associated with the disease.
Chondroprotective agents (chondro means cartilage) like glucosamine and chondroitine sulfate can also be used for treatment of osteoarthritis.
Glucosamine is a chemical compound found naturally in our bodies. Its amount decreases with aging and this may lead to weakening of our joints. There is no natural food source of glucosamine and its supplements are manufactured from shellfish. People allergic to shellfish should not take it.
Glucosamine supplement acts by increasing the production of substances called proteoglycans and collagen which are considered the building blocks of our articular cartilage, thus, improving the strength of our cartilage and helping its repair and maintenance. It also helps lubricate joints.
One of the major advantages of glucosamine is that it has very limited side effects. However, glucosamine may not decrease the joint pain in everyone who takes it. It has a limited effect in obese patients and those with severe advanced osteoarthritis. Glucosamine is often taken together with another chondroprotective agent called chondroitin, which comes from cartilage.