Quick Study

Quick Study: Daily glucosamine supplements performed no better than placebo

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Daily glucosamine supplements performed no better than placebo

THE QUESTION Might glucosamine, a supplement widely taken for knee pain caused by osteoarthritis, help relieve low-back pain of similar origin?

THIS STUDY randomly assigned 250 men and women (average age, 48) with chronic pain in their lower back attributed to degenerative lumbar osteoarthritis to take glucosamine (1,500 milligrams) or a placebo daily for six months. Based on a standardized rating scale, the participants' pain overall, on average, dropped from about 10 on a 24-point scale (with higher numbers denoting greater pain) at the start of the study to about 5, both at the end of the study period and six months later. Virtually no difference was found in pain, disability or quality of life between those who did and did not take glucosamine. Neither group reported serious side effects.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? People with chronic low-back pain, one of the most common complaints that prompt doctor visits in the United States. Pain is considered chronic if it lasts three months or more. The cause of low-back pain is often unclear, and the pain sometimes goes away on its own. In other cases, treatment such as medication, physical therapy or, in severe instances, surgery, may be suggested.

CAVEATS About a third to half of the participants used painkillers, some type of physical therapy or both during the study, which may have affected the results.

FIND THIS STUDY July 7 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

LEARN MORE ABOUT back pain at http://www.niams.nih.gov and http://orthoinfo.aaos.org.

-- Linda Searing

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.

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