Glucosamine is a natural substance found in healthy cartilage. Cartilage is connective tissue that cushions the joints. Over time, this cartilage breaks down from injury or from normal wear and tear. This breakdown of cartilage is called osteoarthritis. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2005 an estimated 26.9 million adults in the United States were affected by osteoarthritis. Glucosamine is commonly used and is available in several forms to treat and reduce pain associated with osteoarthritis in both humans and animals.
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According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, results from several studies suggest that glucosamine supplement may be effective at treating osteoarthritis of the hip and knee. Glucosamine has shown to reduce pain, improve function and reduce joint swelling and stiffness in individuals with osteoarthritis. Relief from symptoms can last up to three months after glucosamine treatment has stopped.
Glucosamine comes in four different forms: injectable, solid, liquid and cream. According to the Glucosamine Osteoarthritis Resource Center, injecting daily doses into your joints is the most effective way to take glucosamine. However, injecting glucosamine is not always possible, comfortable or safe. The next best option is the liquid form, followed by solid or pill form and finally the topical cream. The cream form has not been proven an effective alternative for treating osteoarthritis, because it is not known how well it's absorbed into the skin.
The liquid form of glucosamine is an effective alternative to the injections. Your body absorbs substances faster in liquid form than in solid form. Individuals taking the liquid form may begin to see results in one to two weeks after beginning treatment. Glucosamine liquids are water soluble and can easily be mixed in water or fruit juice.
Glucosamine pills are not absorbed as well as the liquid form, and it may take a few months to see results. They contain fillers and stabilizers, and the amount of effective glucosamine contained in the pill is not always apparent, according to the Glucosamine Osteoarthritis Resource Center. Additionally, glucosamine pills can be large and may be harder for you to swallow, or harder to administer to your pet; liquid form can be easily mixed into your pet's food or water bowl.
There are not many side effects associated with glucosamine. However, high doses of glucosamine can cause gastric problems such as nausea and diarrhea. Do not take glucosamine supplements prior to consulting your physician if you are allergic to shellfish. Additionally, diabetics or pregnant or nursing women should check with your doctor before supplementing.