Should Runners Take Glucosamine?

Running can be tough on your body. It is a strenuous sport that can cause wear and tear on your joints and leave you vulnerable to injury. Is glucosamine the miracle answer to injury prevention and joint healing? Should runners take glucosamine?

What is glucosamine?

Glucosamine is a nutrient which is naturally produced in the human body. It plays a crucial role in cartilage development. It is most often taken for pain associated with osteoarthritis.

Does running increase my risk of osteoarthritis?

The cause of osteoarthritis is multifactorial and complex. Culprits could include:

  • Genetics
  • Developmental abnormalities
  • Metabolic processes that impair joints
  • Daily wear and tear

The jury is still out as to a singular cause of osteoarthritis. According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine in 2008, running doesn’t put you at any higher risk for osteoarthritis than anyone else.

In fact, running may actually decrease your risk of osteoarthritis.

Should you take glucosamine?

The evidence is overwhelmingly conflicting.There have been some studies that show taking glucosamine provides benefits from using the supplement and others that show no benefit.

The decision to use glucosamine as either a treatment or preventative therapy is an individual choice. You will have to gauge the amount of pain you have and consult with a physician.

Physician consultation will allow you to rule out any other possible causes for the pain. It will also allow you to safely choose an approved brand of supplement. Additionally, your physician can help monitor for potentially harmful side effects.

You should also give careful attention when selecting a supplement. Glucosamine is considered a vitamin replacement/alternative therapy and therefore not regulated as strictly as medications by the food and drug administration (FDA).

Image Source Flickr user brett lohmeyer

Possible benefits of glucosamine:

Possible side effects of taking glucosamine:

Taking glucosamine can also come with some undesirable side-effects (especially if you get no relief from the osteoarthritis)

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Gas
  • Heartburn

We can’t think of any runner who would want to experience any of those symptoms during a run. Not everyone has these side effects, but it’s best to know what you may experience while taking glucosamine.

Always consult with your physician

With any new supplement, you should check with your physician before starting a new regimen. Your physician will be able to guide you if you have pre-existing conditions that may contraindicate you taking the supplement.

Your physician may also be able to offer other alternatives for pain associated with joints such as a simple non steroid anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), acupuncture, steroid injections, or joint replacement. A good physician might even send you to have your gait analyzed.

Taking a new supplement isn’t always without risk. You should only take glucosamine with a doctor’s approval and monitoring. For some taking glucosamine may be a life-saver, for others it may not!

The data is definitely conflicting as to a whether you should or shouldn’t take glucosamine. What is clear is that you should consult a physician and establish a treatment plan. For most runners, it is a trial and error process to see if they experience any benefit from using glucosamine.