Glucosamine and chondroitin for herniated discs are dietary supplements that have long been used to reduce inflammation and rebuild organic tissue. Glucosamine and chondroitin products are costly and have become even more so in recent years. Due to their high cost, many patients wonder about recommendations they receive to begin using the supplements. We always receive a few letters each and every month inquiring about their potential benefits specifically for disc pain patients, so we decided to create this consumer guide to help patients better understand what G&C do, how they might be used and what benefits are to be expected from their consumption.
This report provides an objective analysis of chondroitin and glucosamine products in various forms for use in patients who have been diagnosed with intervertebral disc bulges and ruptures.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are naturally-occurring substances that have been studied for decades for their possible health benefits. Both substances are normally found in the human anatomy. High concentrations of glucosamine are normally harvested from the exoskeletons of various types of legged shellfish. Meanwhile, chondroitin is derived mostly from the butchery of large food animals, and some fish, and is found in various cartilage tissues.
G&C supplements are normally sold in health food stores, vitamin stores, fitness locations, from certain doctors and therapists and of course, online. They are typically some of the most expensive dietary supplements, especially when derived from quality sources and packaged in high concentrations. Glucosamine and chondroitin are most often sold in capsule form and are sometimes mixed with other healthy ingredients, such as vitamins, minerals or additional supplements. Powdered G&C is also available, making it easy for users to add to various foods or beverages.
It must be made very clear that glucosamine and chondroitin are basically food items and are not medications or medical treatments. They are not pharmaceutical substances, nor are they supposed to reduce pain or treat any specific medical condition. G&C are not regulated by drug agencies and are sold as foods, health and beauty aids or nutritional supplements worldwide, allowing manufacturers much leeway in their marketing claims.
To begin on a positive note, glucosamine and chondroitin are generally considered safe for dietary consumption and are even viewed as being healthy. Both substances have been used for decades by healthy people, fitness enthusiasts and even doctors as part of their own dietary consumption. Both substances have also been studied in many biased and objective research projects during the many years of their use.
G&C are known to provide anti-inflammatory properties in the laboratory. Whether or not these properties translate in actual anatomical use is less certain, although evidence suggest that they do. That being said, inflammation is not part of most herniated disc problems, nor is it a component of most back or neck pain issues, regardless of the diagnosis. Dr. John E. Sarno has written about the vilification of inflammation as a major cause of pain in much of the orthopedic sector, yet questions where is the proof that this inflammation even exists.
Herniated discs might seem to be inflamed when they bulge, but actually, the disc is merely structurally changed by injury or degeneration. Intervertebral tissue does not suffer inflammation in the same manner as other anatomical tissues, so it seems that providing anti-inflammatory benefits is not helpful for disc-pain sufferers.
The annulus fibrosus is the outer wall of a spinal disc and the part that is damaged when a bulge, herniation or rupture occurs. This outer wall is a layered design that is made largely of cartilage, the same source of chondroitin. Therefore, many experts believe that the disc wall can be repaired by providing the body with the same building blocks that it is made from. However, no convincing evidence has ever been found that proves that glucosamine or chondroitin provide any benefits towards repairing damaged annulus fibrosus structures.
Finally, although not directly lined to herniated discs, G&C are theorized to help reduce the incidence, severity and symptomatic expressions of arthritis. Some amount of clinical evidence supports that fact that G&C might provide very small benefits in this regard, but these sources are still widely disputed by some objective research technicians as being incorrectly interpreted data.
G&C are generally considered safe and even beneficial. However, they can interact with a select few pharmaceutical products, including the very commonly used warfarin and other anticoagulants. The primary risk of purchasing and using glucosamine and chondroitin for herniated disc patients is the simple waste of money on a product that is virtually guaranteed to be of little direct benefit, but comes at an expensive price.
Objective analysis and the most recent clinical studies show glucosamine and chondroitin to be about as effective as placebo treatment when it comes to providing benefits for arthritis or any type of back or neck pain. There is no evidence that the product specifically helps to repair damaged disc tissues.
Unfortunately, as we have written before in many other essays on the subject of dubious healthcare products, most recommendations from doctors and therapists come from providers who actually deal in these supplements directly and make huge profit margins by selling them to virtually all of their patients. This practice demonstrates a distinct lack of ethics and is simply unacceptable for any professional who already ranks so highly in the vocational pay scale, such as a physical therapist, chiropractor or physician. If you feel as if you are being pushed into the use of glucosamine and chondroitin for herniated discs, or any supplement, by a doctor who sells the product, you might want to rethink you choice of care provider, as this behavior provides real insight to potentially serious flaws in their personal and professional character.