Cancer 3 Essay, Research Paper
A Cure for Osteoarthritis Glucosamine Sulfate
For many people, joint problems are a serious issue. Those affected by joint problems ranges from the highly athletic professional sports players to the lesser active elders with osteoarthritis. Though there are several options to deal with sore and injured joints, the use of supplements seem to be on the rise. One of the most successful supplements used today for joint support and repair is glucosamine sulfate. Not only can glucosamine sulfate prevent injuries to ones joints, it can also relieve current joint problems.
Glucosamine sulfate is used to combat osteoarthritis, a condition that effects the joints and its surroundings. For a better understanding to how glucosamine works, this paper will include what glucosamine sulfate is, how is works, and what it works on (osteoarthritis). Also included is an in-depth look at osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease (DJD), which is the most common type of arthritis, affecting over 16 million people in the United States today (1).
Arthritis refers to inflammation or swelling of the joints. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which is also known as degenerative joint disease because it is characterized by joint degeneration and loss of cartilage. Cartilage is the shock absorbing material between joints. The weight-bearing joints such as the knees, hips, and spine, as well as the hands, are the joints most often affected by osteoarthritis. These joints are under much greater stress because of additional weight and continuous use (lifting, sports, support, movement). The concern that too much physical activity may lead to osteoarthritis is on the rise (2). Too much physical activity can lead to osteoarthritis since “the continuous stress that physical activity places on the joints can result in microtrauma and degeneration of the articular cartilage” (2).
Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that is caused by inflammation, breakdown, and eventual loss of the cartilage of the joints. Cartilage is a protein substance that serves as a “cushion” between the bones of the joints. Osteoarthritis is also known as degenerative arthritis. Among the over 100 different types of arthritis conditions, osteoarthritis is the most common, affecting over 15 million people in the United States (3). Before age 45, osteoarthritis occurs more frequently in males. After age 55 years, it occurs more frequently in females. Most cases of osteoarthritis have no known cause, and are called primary osteoarthritis. When the cause of the osteoarthritis is known, the condition is called secondary osteoarthritis (3). Primary osteoarthritis is mostly related to aging. After prolonged use of joints, the cartilage begins to degenerate by flaking or forming tiny crevasses. In advanced cases, there is a total loss of the cartilage cushion between the bones of the joints. Loss of cartilage cushion causes friction between the bones, leading to pain and minimized movement of the joint(s). Inflammation of the cartilage can also stimulate new bone outgrowths (spurs) to form around the joints (3). Secondary osteoarthritis is caused by another disease or condition. Conditions that can lead to secondary osteoarthritis include obesity, repeated trauma or surgery to the joint structures, abnormal joints at birth (congenital abnormalities), gout, diabetes, and other hormone disorders (3).
An important component of a healthy joint is articular cartilage, which is designed to reduce the friction of bones rubbing together by holding in fluids used for lubrication. It is a spongy material that releases fluids under pressure and soaks up fluids when the pressure is released. For example, when you take a step, liquid is squeezed out of the cartilage in your knee as you bring your foot down (like pressing on a wet sponge), and then is soaked up when you pick up your foot to take another step. Osteoarthritis begins with a loss of water in the cartilage, causing it to weaken and crack. The cartilage degrades, forming grooves that eventually expose the bone. With this lack of cartilage, bones rub together, causing a lot of pain and swelling.
Typical treatment of osteoarthritis relies heavily on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). A few examples of NSAIDs, which can most likely be found in the medicine cabinet, include aspirin and ibuprofen. These drugs may relieve the symptoms, but they do not slow the progression of the disease. In addition, there is evidence that long-term use of NSAIDs damages the joints and accelerates the progression of osteoarthritis! Furthermore, NSAIDs have a number of adverse side effects, including ulcers and damage to the liver or kidneys.
So where does glucosamine sulfate come into play? Glucosamine is a building block for the strength and durability of joint structures. When sufficient levels of glucosamine are present, cartilage keeps its ability to hold water and act as a shock absorber. Glucosamine is a simple molecule that can be naturally produced in the body. As some people age, they lose the ability to make sufficient levels of glucosamine. The result is that cartilage loses its ability to as a shock absorber.
Some people may be skeptical or even intimated by the use of supplements, which have not been out for as long as the trusted pain killers (aspirin, ibuprofen). Not to worry, “there are sufficient number of short-term studies with these agents suggesting efficiency to that seen in the symptomatic treatment of OA using NSAIDs” (4). Another example of the effectiveness of glucosamine sulfate can be seen in sentence, “in two randomized controlled trials comparing glucosamine sulfate to ibuprofen, glucosamine was superior in one and equivalent in one” (4). Lastly, glucosamine sulfate given orally is at least as effective as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in relieving the symptoms of osteoarthritis (5). Previous studies have also shown that the longer glucosamine sulfate is used, the more obvious the benefit.
When glucosamine supplementation is used opposed to the typical use of NSAIDs for treatment of osteoarthritis, health risks are decreased and the effectiveness of the treatment increases. Dating back from the early 1980’s, a number of double-blind studies demonstrate that oral glucosamine decreases pain and improves mobility in people with osteoarthritis, without side effects (6). A major reason for using glucosamine can be seen the following sentence,
“given the detrimental effects of NSAIDs on joints and other organs,
their use should be discouraged and their classification as a first choice conservative treatment should be abolished. A truly effective and conservative approach to the treatment of osteoarthritis should include chiropractic manipulation, essential nutrient supplementation, exogenous administration of glucosamine sulfate and rehabilitative stretches and exercises to maintain joint function” (7).
In many of the head-to-head double-blind studies, glucosamine sulfate was shown to produce better results that NSAIDs in relieving the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis despite the fact that glucosamine sulfate shows little direct anti-inflammatory effect and no direct pain relieving effects. To support this statement, it has been shown that glucosamine produces consistent benefits in those with osteoarthritis. In addition, the use of glucosamine is said to be superior to ibuprofen in controlling symptoms (8). While NSAIDs offer mostly suggestive relief and may actually promote the disease process, glucosamine sulfate works on the cause of osteoarthritis. By treating the root of the problem through actually building joint cartilage, glucosamine sulfate not only improves the symptoms, including pain, it also helps the body repair damaged joints.
The recommended amount of glucosamine sulfate is around 500 mg three times per day. These doses do vary, since individuals differ in weight and degree of the joint problem. Doses higher than recommended can be considered since a study involving 178 Chinese patients suffering from osteoarthritis were given a daily dose of 1500mg of glucosamine sulfate (9).
Glucosamine sulfate is an ideal supplement used to treat osteoarthritis. There are many sound experiments to back the quality and effectiveness of glucosamine sulfate, thus making it a safe choice for joint sufferers. Not only does glucosamine rid the patient of pain and swelling of the affected joints, it also works at the source of the problem, which is joint degradation. Unlike NSAIDs, which can cause negative side effects, glucosamine works only to the benefit of the user. With numerous studies backing the power of glucosamine sulfate, I believe it will become the number one supplement used for joint problems (osteoarthritis), thus replacing the conventional problem causing NSAIDs.