Back pain is a common condition characterized by burning, tingling, dull or sharp pain in the low back that sometimes radiates down to the legs. Low back pain may be the result of muscle spasm or strain from an injury, herniated disk, degenerative disk disease associated with osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. Glucosamine and chondroitin might offer some benefits, but more research is needed to know how well they work. Talk to your health care provider before taking any supplements.
A study published in the May 2003 issue of “The Spine Journal” found that a combination of glucosamine, chondroitin and two other supplements improved symptoms of low back pain associated with degenerative disc disease in 57 percent of the participants of the study, who noted 76 percent improvement in disability scores, including pain and other subjective symptoms. The same combination of supplements was evaluated in another study featured in the September 2009 issue of “Nature Reviews: Rheumatology,” and again the authors found that subjects under the treatment had reduced inflammation and back pain associated with degenerative disk diseases affecting the spine. The University of Maryland Medical Center cautions, however, that more research is needed to confirm glucosamine and chondroitin's ability to reduce joint pain, including back pain.
Both glucosamine and chondroitin are considered safe and well tolerated supplements. In rare cases, chondroitin may cause mild stomach upset. Heartburn, gas, bloating and diarrhea and stomach pain occur rarely when using glucosamine. Pregnant women should not use these supplements, as their safety during pregnancy has not been confirmed.
Chondroitin and glucosamine may interact with some conventional drugs like blood thinners. Both chondroitin and glucosamine may reduce the need for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and glucosamine only may decrease the need for antidiabetes drugs.
Consult a qualified health care provider to find out more about natural supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin that may help reduce your back pain. Keep in mind that these supplements do not replace any conventional drugs prescribed for back pain. They are not approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat backache.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Back Pain and Sciatica
- University of Maryland: Glucosamine
- University of Maryland, Medical Center : Chondroitin
- Nature Reviews-Rheumatology: New Methods to Diagnose and Treat Cartilage Degeneration
- Spine: Biochemical Injection Treatment for Discogenic Low Back pain: a Pilot Study