Almost twenty years ago, Dutch researchers published a case study in which a man who had had problems with a damaged intervertebral disc for 15 years recovered through supplementation with glucosamine and chondroitin.
Case studyThe main character in the Dutch study is a 56-year-old man who has been suffering from his back for 15 years. He keeps moving by playing a lot of tennis, but being heavy physical work is painful. The pain radiates to his leg, where he also experiences a tingling sensation. The man has sciatica, a condition in which a damaged intervertebral disc pinches nerve pathways.
The man decides to take a supplement with glucosamine and chondroitin. For 9 months, the man takes every 3 capsules with the combination. Each capsule contains 500 milligrams of glucosamine HCl, 400 milligrams of chondroitin sulfate and 2 milligrams of manganese ascorbate.
After these first 9 months, the man takes 2 capsules every day for another 15 months.
When the supplementation period begins, one year later and another year later, the researchers make an MRI scan of the man's lower back.
ResultsThe scans showed that during the two years that the man took glucosamine and chondroitin, the damaged intervertebral disc [near the large arrow] recovered. The amount of cartilage in the disc increased.
The man had a bulge on the damaged intervertebral vertebra [small arrow]. This bulge pressed the nerve in the spine, possibly causing pain and tingling in the man's legs. The bulge disappeared during the supplementation period.
The scans also show a worn intervertebral disc on which the cartilage has almost completely disappeared. There is no improvement in that intervertebral disc.
Conclusion"The case suggests that long-term glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate intake may counteract symptomatic spinal disc degeneration, particularly at an early stage," the researchers summarize.
They add that a case study can suggest anything, but cannot prove anything. Evidence requires well-designed trials.