I try to keep the purpose of all my webpages to the point of information, enlightenment and public service, and not for commercial purposes. Here, I'm allowing an exception, because I believe it falls under all three of those categories.

Below is a small essay on glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate, as well as my personal experiences in their use, which I hope you find useful.

I invite you to visit the pages of a commercial site which not only sells glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate, but also provides a good amount of information on them and their uses.

  1. Syn-Flex Home Page
  2. Syn-Flex product information
  3. Syn-Flex free glucosamine report
  4. Syn-Flex Arthritis Resource Center

I do receive a small percentage if you buy through any of these links, and would appreciate it if you used them. The public service of these webpages does cost not only time and effort, but also money. Defraying the dollar costs will help in keeping them avaiulable.
Thank you.

Mythology to Science

The efficacy of glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate in the treatment of joint disorders lingered for quite some time in the backwaters of medical science relying mostly on anecdotal evidence. The body of science and scientists is slow to change in incorporating both evidence and in modifying theory, and rightfully so; sometimes this reluctance to change in retrospect looks downright pigheaded, particularly when the scientific community simply refuses to look in a promising direction, and refuses to do the appropriate unbiased research, to disprove.

Any new hypothesis is unfortunately considered a priori to be "crackpot" if it denies or greatly improves on some cherished belief, even if it is not experimentally confirmed.

So has it been with the effects of glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate, as it was with the theory of techtonic plates; both were considered crackpot, and both have ultimately been confirmed as real. Joint disorders, notably arthritis of various kinds, are inflammatory conditions caused by malfunctioning of body chemistry in one way or another, or by physical trauma. These inflammations can, and most often do, last for years or even for the remainder of one's life. Powerful anti-inflammatory steroids and NSAIDS (Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs such as Anaprox = OTC Alleve) universally have the side effect of destroying the all important joint cartilage, thus essentially fooling a patient by first reducing the pain associated with the condition, but eventually making the condition worse. This is a very good reason for *not* using these drugs except possibly in a critical condition and even then only for a short period of time.

Then came the almost miraculous claim that glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate acted not only as an anti-inflammatory, but also acted to help rebuild damaged joint cartilage by supplying the appropriate chemical building blocks. The first effect of glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate confirmed was that of being an anti-inflammatory. Only recently has its property of aiding the repair of damaged cartilage been confirmed.

Personal Experience

I was in an auto wreck in 1994, and sustained injuries to the cartilaginous structure (Glenoid fossa), tendons and muscles of my right shoulder. The pain in the shoulder was so intense that moving it was agony; sleeping was by sheer exhaustion, and even so, interrupted should I inadvertantly roll to put pressure on the joint. Physicians and dentists have remarked on my high threshhold of pain, so it must have been pretty bad. Anaprox was prescribed, and I took it in fairly large doses for months. Yes, it kept a lid on the pain, but of course I developed frozen shoulder syndrome, and because my evil insurance company, State Farm arbitrarily refused treatment in the form of physical therapy, I developed the expected adhesions that severely limited all ranges of motion. Coinciding was the fact that the Anaprox did not kill the general shoulder inflammation, which continued from 1994 to 1998. I had heard about glucosamine sulfate in various scientific journals; while it then merely sounded promising and almost too good to be true, I just kept in the back of my mind waiting for some genuine confirmation. In 1998, it became clear that the shoulder was not about to get any better on its own. I knew about the destructive effects of steroids (which I never did resort to) and NSAIDS which, unfortunately, I did use. MRIs and discussion with orthopaedic surgeons and one rather brilliant researcher and rheumatologist told me that surgery was not indicated only because exactly what needed to be done was not at all clear; the damage was simply too complex. I was desperate to find some solution, first and foremost to knock the intractable inflammation out.

I happen to be a rather well educated and well read scientist, so I did what came naturally on remembering glucosamine sulfate: search out in the various medical and scientific journals what had become known since I'd looked last. Glucosamine sulfate looked even more promising; I think the anti-inflammatory action had been established. I checked with my brilliant rheumatologist, and he agreed that glucosamine sulfate was a good thing to try. I checked out side effects, finding that the only possible one was a mild stomach irritation, less than aspirin, and that it was eliminated if the glucosamine sulfate was taken with food.

I began taking it then. Though the results were not immediate and dramatic, as I continued taking it regularly, the effects came slowly but surely. Remember that *nothing* else worked. After a year and a half, there was no discernable inflammation.

Of course, there was still the matter of the adhesions. There are two ways to deal with these; which way can depend on specifics of the case. The two ways are through surgery or through physical therapy. In the first case, the adhesions (which if left for a long time can actually vascularize) are cut; in the second the adhesions are actually broken or torn. In either case, the shoulder would be retraumatized and so invite yet another bout of inflammation. In long term vascularlized adhesions, surgery is most often indicated. However, I'm reluctant when it comes to surgery, and despite the common wisdom, I went the long term pain route of physical therapy, while continuing to take glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate to reduce inflammatory reactions to the slow tearing of the adhesions.

It's still working: from almost no range of motion to about 7/8 of normal at the moment. I'm now sure that I will soon have full (not merely "acceptable") range of motion restored in the right shoulder.

What I didn't mention above is that not only was the shoulder damaged, but the neck was as well, causing a central stenosis and spinal cord compression, among other things. Decompression surgery, in 1998, thanks to Medicaid, having been also forbidden by the treacherous State Farm Noninsurance Racketeers, left me with an atrophied spinal cord. The surgery performed at Duke University Hospital by a brilliant (those are the only physicians I'll accept) neurosugeon, Michael M. Haglund, required a quintuple laminectomy, C3-C5. It often turns out that any cervical surgery, for complex reasons, can induce or promote osteoarthritic growth below, in the upper thoracic vertebrae. MRIs subsequent to the surgery don't show and such problem. Of course, I'm still taking, and will probably continue to take glucosamine and chondroitin suflates. Is there a cause an effect there? I don't know, but at this point, I'm taking no chances. Another corrective surgery is to be avoided.

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Created: January 20, 2002
Last Updated: January 20, 2002