JAMA logoGlucosamine is extensively used as a therapy for low back pain. A recent study included patients with chronic low back pain (LBP) and degenerative lumbar osteoarthritis (OA) who consumed glucosamine for a period of six months. Experts observed that these patients displayed minimal difference on various measures mainly pain-related disability, low back, leg pain and quality of life linked with health.

Findings were compared to individuals who consumed placebo. Experts observed that despite glucosamine’s controversial and conflicting evidence it is extensively used as a treatment for OA. However LBP patients consume it in large quantities although its efficiency remains uncertain.

Authors elucidates, “Osteoarthritis is a common condition that currently affects more than 20 million individuals in the United States, and this number is expected to increase. Low back pain is widespread and is the second most common concern expressed by patients in primary care. It poses a diagnostic and therapeutic challenge to clinicians due to the unclear etiology [cause] and the range of interventions with limited effect.”

The study enlisted 250 participants who were older than 25 years. They consumed either 1,500 mg. of oral glucosamine or placebo everyday for a period of 6 months. These individuals were assessed after 6 months and 1 year. The Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ) highlighted the primary outcome pain-related disability. The secondary outcome revealed numerical scores from pain-rating scales at initial stages of the trial and at 6 weeks, 3 and 6 months and at 1 year.

Authors reveal, “Based on our results, it seems unwise to recommend glucosamine to all patients with chronic LBP and degenerative lumbar OA. Further research is needed to clarify whether glucosamine is advantageous in an alternative LBP population”.

In the initial stages of the trial experts observed that the average RMDQ score was 9.2 for the glucosamine group whereas for the placebo group it was 9.7. After a period of 6 months average RMDQ score was 5.0 for both these groups and after 1 year the score was observed to be 4.8 for the glucosamine group and 5.5 for the placebo group. Experts did not identify any significant difference after the 6-month period and at 1 year for RMDQ, and for measures of LBP at rest, LBP during activity and quality-of-life. They also observed adverse effects among 40 patients in the glucosamine group and 46 patients in the placebo group.

These findings were according to a study in the July 7 issue of JAMA.