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Chondroitin Sulfate Ideal in Treating Osteoarthritis

Current treatment of osteoarthritis involves nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which are accompanied by numerous adverse effects. Chondroitin sulfate represents a viable alternative that is equally as effective in pain relief and function restoration.


Osteoarthritis (OA) is a disease in which the cartilage providing cushioning between joints wears down. This can result in pain, stiffness, loss of function and eventually joint instability. The symptoms of OA can greatly decrease one’s quality of life. Current treatments center on lifestyle changes to prevent further joint degeneration and medication to provide pain relief and allow for joint use.

Currently, most prescriptions for OA are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which reduce joint inflammation and subsequent pain and stiffness. However, some NSAIDs also have a considerable degree of toxicity, and can lead to cardiovascular and intestinal problems. As such, researchers have begun examining alternatives to NSAIDs in treating osteoarthritis, such as chondroitin sulfate.

A study published in BMJ by Reginster and colleagues examined the efficacy of using chondroitin sulfate to treat pain and loss of function in OA. Chondroitin sulfate was compared against the NSAID celecoxib and a placebo. Chondroitin sulfate, a naturally occurring chemical found in cartilage, is used in treatment of a number of other ailments. Outpatients 50 years and older with primary knee OA were recruited for the study. The participants were separated into three groups, given either chondroitin sulfate, celecoxib and or a placebo. Patients were examined for pain and function based on self-evaluation and were followed for 6 months.

The results indicate chondroitin sulfate to be a suitable option for treatment of OA. In treating pain and restoring joint function, chondroitin sulfate performed similarly to celecoxib and superior to placebo. At 30 days, celecoxib but not chondroitin sulfate showed significant benefit over placebo. However, at 3 and 6 months into treatment, chondroitin sulfate showed similar benefit to celecoxib. Though NSAIDs are effective in treating the pain associated with osteoarthritis, their long term use has been connected to numerous adverse health effects. As chondroitin sulfate performs similarly in pain relief and function restoration, it should be considered as a primary treatment for OA.


Written By: Wesley Tin, BMSc

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