Glucosamine for Back Arthritis

This is a transcript of a Dr. Jay Show broadcast on 1560TheGame in Houston, TX. Dr. J. Michael Bennett is a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon and a Fellowship Trained Sports Medicine Physician serving patients from Katy, Fort Bend County, Metro Houston and Southeast Texas from offices in Richmond and Sugar Land, TX. Dr Bennett is will begin to see patients at a new office in Houston on May 3, 2012. Call 281-633-8600 for an appointment.

Our special guest for the show was Dr. Benoy Benny. He is a physical medicine rehabilitation physician, and he is board certified for pain and spine as well as for minimally invasive procedures in spine. He’s also a professor at Baylor College of Medicine. Bob Lewis of 1560TheGame is also a guest on the show.

Here’s the transcript of the sixth section of the Show:

BENNETT: I appreciate you guys tuning in and wanted to give a shout-out to the Texas Sports Medicine Institute for sponsoring the show.  It’s a great facility located between Katy and Sugar Land.  It’s a one-stop shop for all your sports medicine and sports performance needs.  We’ve got specialists, just like Dr. Benny over there, in pain and spine, as well as sports medicine specialists and general orthopedists, and podiatry.  We’ve got Plex out there.  It’s a beautiful facility if you ever get a chance to check it out.  Or visit the website at

We’re talking today about back, neck and spine pain.  We’ve got Dr. Benoy Benny here with us.  This next segment I really like to call the “Don’t Believe The Hype” segment.  I like to throw in there this cutting edge stuff that you hear and read about and that people think is going to be the next best thing, then you end up finding out that studies aren’t done yet or it’s not FDA approved or really we don’t know what the results are.  So this is going to give you a little bit of information on what’s legitimately been tested, what hasn’t, what’s relatively new and what to expect.  

So in regards to arthritis, that’s the big thing that we see out there.  When you have arthritis in your back, you get bone spurs in your spine.  And those bone spurs can pinch the nerves just like Dr. Benny had mentioned before.  Over time, you actually lose height as you get older.  The reason we get shorter is you lose a little bit of water between those discs, between the vertebra.  But when that happens, like the jelly donut analogy, that fluid goes somewhere and sometimes that can irritate the nerve or a bone spur can irritate the nerve and that can cause a lot of problems.  And so there’s a lot of treatments out there regarding arthritis. You hear a lot about supplementation, whether it’s glucosamine or platelet-rich plasma or steroid injections.

So, Dr. Benny, what do you think about some of these newer treatment methods and modalities?  And another two I wanted to mention is disc replacements, which is like a joint replacement, and nerve ablation, where they burn the nerves.  See if you can tackle each one of those and give us a little bit of information and share your thoughts on them.

BENNY:  I think it really is a multi-faceted approach when you think about treatment of back pain and arthritis.  Let’s just start with muscular causes and physical therapy.  We were talking a little bit about this before.  I think there’s two main components to physical therapy for spine problems.  One is the strengthening of the core muscles.  The other one is the stretching.  You need both of it.  If you can imagine you have really tight hamstrings, you’re putting a lot of stress in the back part of your spine so you need to work on stretching that.  If you have weak core muscles you are putting stress all around your spine so you need to strengthen that.  That’s from the physical therapy standpoint; working on those two things.  

In terms of the arthritis and supplementation, that’s a very common question and people have been taking glucosamine and chondroitin for years.  The good thing about glucosamine and chondroitin is they’re really safe; it doesn’t really have any side effects that we know of.  And individuals have used it for fifteen years or more and for some people it is amazing, almost like a miracle pill.  They start to take it for a few months and they feel a whole lot better; their aches and pains get much better.  There’s supportive data but there’s also data that says it doesn’t really help too much.  But the main thing I would always say to a patient is, if you haven’t tried it and you’re having these issues, try it.  It’s worth trying.  There’s different brands out there.  You want to be able to do your research as far as looking at these brands and the data that they have.  But I think it’s definitely worth trying.

LEWIS:  The over the counter stuff is fine?

BENNETT:  Well you’ve got to be careful about a lot of that stuff because in general, and I’ve mentioned this before in the previous shows, there’s no regulation in regards to supplementation.  So FDA is not keeping track of what people are putting into over the counter products.

LEWIS:  So you should go to your doctor for glucosamine?

BENNETT:  You could actually ask what their opinion is on glucosamine.  Because you have no idea how much of that you’re absorbing.  I mean you could be spending $30 on a pill and end up peeing it out the next day.  So you want to make sure you get something that’s about 95 percent absorbed.  The average absorption rate on over the counter stuff is about 25 percent.  

LEWIS:  And they say it’s pretty expensive, about $40 per bottle.

BENNETT:  And if you’re going to spend that much you want to make sure you’ve got the data or the information that shows you’ve got a good product that’s absorbed or at least it’s pharmaceutical grade – that means it’s at least 75 percent absorbed.  If it doesn’t say pharmaceutical grade then it’s probably 25 percent absorbed.  And then there are some products out there that are about 95 percent absorption rate.  But like Dr. Benny said, it’s not something that’s going to hurt you and it’s been around a long time and definitely bring it up with your physician if you’re interested in it or I’ve actually got a portion on my website – – that talks about supplementation and what’s out there and what to look for.  

If you have questions about arthritis or about the use of supplements like glucosamine, please arrange a time to visit with Dr. Bennett by calling our office at 281-633-8600.

Dr. J. Michael Bennett

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