Arthritis: Glucosamine, Chondroitin, or MSM?

by in Arthritis, Kitchen Sink April 23, 2008

elbow.jpgI think the most common question I seem to get is “What can I do naturally for arthritis” followed by “What is better glucosamine, chondroitin, or MSM?”

Those are great questions and first before I begin would like to just start a brief tirade about the use of NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) otherwise known as the common pain relievers that we use to treat temporary pain such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.

Now the KEY to the sentence I just typed is the word “temporary”.

NSAIDS and heaven forbid cortisone injections (please only do this as a last resort as cortisone completely shuts down your joints ability to repair as does stress) are simply a quick fix for pain and not a great long term solution as they actually INHIBIT the synthesis of cartilage.


Isn’t that why we have osteoarthritis in the first place? The meniscus (shock pad between joints) is made of cartilage right? As we age it gets worn down and our joint space naturally diminshes, loses lubrication and eventually as a result we are in severe pain because we have bone rubbing on bone. Ouch!

Now that everyone is hip to the fact that NSAIDS are not a great long term solution for joint pain, let’s talk about the things that are.

The answer to the question of “What is better glucosamine, chondroitin, or MSM?” is “all of the above”. A good student when in doubt always picks “all of the above” or “C”. Now you could effectively choose “C” for chondroitin and that would not be a bad answer, but chondroitin is also pretty pricey so most people buy it with glucosamine and MSM. Glucosamine was shown to reduce arthritis symptoms in 80% of people after just three weeks. Now 80% is FANTASTIC for any drug in a research study. So you can’t go wrong with glucosamine on its own.

Personally I am not convinced that glucosamine is better than chondroitin or vice versa. So in this case we can easily choose “all of the above” because great research studies support the efficacy and safety of all three. So why not use them all together for a nice synergistic effect? Especially a great option for those with severe arthritis. You want to make sure that you are constantly topping off these nutrients that help the joints regenerate. MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is typically the least helpful of the three but is also super cheap so in a pinch is better than nothing, and it is great for irritable bladder and the skin.

Be sure to buy a brand that passed the independent laboratory testing through Consumer Labs. Their studies revealed concern surrounding some crab and shrimp sources of glucosamine and chondroitin being contaminated with lead. Now something that we take three times a day should not have lead in it! I usually recommend Twinlab as I have yet to see any of their products fail any tests. As much as I am not a fan of Costco, their Kirkland brand passed with flying colors. Remember that the FDA does not regulate supplements in America so if you want your natural substance to work you need to shop smart. Many chondroitin products do not contain nearly the amount of chondroitin that they purport on the label.

If you have pets please give them human grade products! So many of the pet products in this study FAILED. To determine dosage for your dog or cat you can simply divide their weight by the average human weight of 150 pounds take that number and use it to divide the typical human dose of glucosamine of 1500mg up. So for instance my Golden Retriever weighs 75 pounds so I give him 750 mg of glucosamine daily. This would be an upper limit dose for more severe arthritis. A maintenance dose would be in the range of 250mg per 40 pounds of body weight.

If glucosamine causes digestive upset you should take it in divided doses. Everyone with arthritis should most likely be taking fish oil as an anti-inflammatory measure, and I will write on herbal medicine for arthritis in an upcoming article.

Hope that helps clear up some common questions. If you found this article helpful you are welcome to pass it along to a friend and subscribe for future updates. Please do drop any other questions in the comments section of this article.

~Dr. Nicole


  1. Hi Dr. Nicole,

    I feel pretty smart, as I answered “all of the above”.
    I found a liquid blend at Costco which I use in my morning smoothie (which also contains ground flax seeds, thanks to your earlier post). I’m hoping the one I use doesn’t contain lead. (Wellesse brand)
    Having had back/sciatica problems in the past, since I started using glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM, I have been pain free. I’m sure my chiropractor misses me, but I sure don’t miss the pain.
    Thank you for the tip about dogs. I did buy some animal “gluc”, but will switch them to the human one.

  2. Yay! You are so smart Barbara- nice job! I haven’t heard about that brand, but you can switch to the Costco brand when you run out as it was proven to be high quality and free of lead. Many of the crustacean products have heavy metals in them because our oceans are polluted and the heavy metals naturally sink to the bottom where crustaceans live.

    Most animal grade products are over-priced and total crap, so I almost always convert human products in to animal doses. Regulation for those products is even worse. Plus it will probably save you money!

  3. I have been taking Glucosamine and I can testify that it really does work! I was delighted to find two other helpful supplements to implement to feel even better. Thank you so much.

    I enjoyed your blog,and appreciate what you are offering to the online community. I am going to add your site to my blog roll. I want everyone to benefit from it.



  4. Hi Athena- thanks for stopping by, and thanks for adding me to your site 😀

    Glucosamine is great by itself but adding in a bit of chondroitin and MSM can be helpful to get complete relief. Take good care!

  5. I have osteoarthritis ,have improved with exercise,glucosamine,local oil massage etc i play golf regularly.

  6. Dr. Nicole:

    Thanks for above article.

    Are there glucoseamine and/or chondroitin products that are not derived from shell fish/ocean products for seafood allergic people?

    Thanks much.

  7. Hi Peggy- That is a great question and unfortunately I don’t have an answer. Best to stop by your local health food store and see if they have a non crustacean source.

  8. i have been taking a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin and it has been very effective unfortunately it also raises my blood pressure can you suggest any alternative

  9. […] Glucosamine, Chondroitin or MSM? What is the best alternative to using plastic water bottles? Flax seed Oil or Fish Oil? What to do for eczema and itchy skin? […]

  10. […] after three months you may want to consider a different formula as I have discussed in my article “Glucosamine, MSM, or Chondroitin?” and Dr. Benjamin Lynch discusses in his article “Glucosamine vs […]

  11. This is very hot information. I think I’ll share it on Facebook.

  12. I have tried several brands of glucosamine (with and without MSM) over the past five years, and Dr. Max Powers ‘Joint Support + Vitamin B12 ( ) is the best product and the best value I have found.

    I recommend taking the full dose as stated on the bottle, daily, if like me you have experienced osteoarthritis, with the accompanying pain and loud popping of joints while climbing stairs, for instance.

    I have full relief from those symptoms since taking this product, and I believe the potency speaks for itself in this result. My only regret is that I didn’t know about this simple solution many years earlier.

  13. i have taken a complete bottle, 80 capsules, of glucosamine, chrondroitin, MSM, for osteoarithis plus exercise and I have not seen any results. I still have hip and leg pain expecially at night it is difficult even to bend over to put socks on. I really some advice. Thanks, Jean

  14. Can I take the three while being pregnant or breastfeedding?

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