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Chondroitin Sulfate Improves Function, Relieves Stiffness Caused by Osteoarthritis of the Hand

If you suffer from osteoarthritis in your hands, supplementing your diet with oral chondroitin sulfate could offer effective pain relief and eliminate or diminish the need for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This is according to a study published online September 6, 2011 in the scientific journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.

People in the study who had hand osteoarthritis and took 800 mg of chondroitin sulfate daily for six months experienced decreased pain, improved hand function, improved grip strength and less morning hand stiffness than those who did not take the supplement.

This is good news because hand osteoarthritis is common among adults and can greatly impact quality of life. There are few proven treatment options. Some of the most popular treatments are NSAIDs (ibuprofen, for example), which provide similar pain reducing effects as chondroitin sulfate, but can have serious side effects such as kidney failure, liver failure and ulcers.

Chondroitin sulfate is a naturally occurring molecule and a main component of joint cartilage. Scientists believe that chondroitin sulfate might help to slow down the breakdown in joint cartilage associated with osteoarthritis. In supplement form, it is manufactured from animal sources, such as cow cartilage. Chondroitin sulfate supplementation used for osteoarthritis is often combined with other products, such as glucosamine sulfate.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), buyers should beware that they don’t always get what the label claims: “There is great variability among chondroitin and chondroitin plus glucosamine products. Some products contain no chondroitin despite label claims, while others contain more chondroitin than the label shows.”

Chondroitin sulfate is thought to be safe for most people. It can cause some mild stomach pain and nausea. Other side effects that have been reported are diarrhea, constipation, swollen eyelids, leg swelling, hair loss, and irregular heartbeat. People taking the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin) should be cautious about taking chondroitin with glucosamine, according to the NIH.

For the study’s abstract click here.

For more about what physical therapy can do to ease osteoarthritis pain, increase function and decrease disability related to osteoarthritis, contact A Physical Therapist, Inc.

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