Chondroitin is a naturally occurring amino sugar in the body that plays a large role in the elasticity of joint cartilage. The degeneration of chondroitin is believed to be a culprit in the onset of osteoarthritis. Chondroitin is often sold as a supplement in conjunction with glucosamine, another amino sugar found in joint cartilage. Although these substances have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of osteoarthritis, some studies have found that these non-vitamin, non-mineral dietary supplements have improved damaged connective tissue in some individuals.
Chondroitin and spinal osteoarthritis
Spinal osteoarthritis is the gradual breakdown of cartilage surrounding the facet joints of the spine. The facet joints are the joints that connect two vertebrae together. As the protective coatings of the facet joints break down, the body will often try to produce extra growths of bone to reinforce the joints, but these bone spurs (also called osteophytes) can impinge nerve roots and cause pain, tingling, numbness or weakness. Osteoarthritis also can lead to irritation of the local nerves that serve the joints, and this irritation can cause the joints to become stiff and achy. Degenerative spine conditions like this affect about 30 million people in the U.S., though women over the age of 50 are especially vulnerable.
If you decide to take chondroitin, glucosamine, or any combination of the two to treat arthritis of the spine, make sure you consult your physician first so that he or she can monitor you for side effects or negative interactions with other drugs that you may be taking. Both amino sugars are gleaned from fish, so if you have allergies to fish, you should avoid the supplements or find supplements that do not have fish-based ingredients.
Other treatment methods for spinal arthritis
Other conservative, non-operative treatments for degenerative spine conditions are available. Over-the-counter analgesics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, cortisone injections or hot-cold therapy may prove effective. Making changes to your lifestyle can have a big impact as well. Staying active with low-impact exercises can be beneficial, but avoid strenuous sports that might cause or aggravate back pain, like jogging or weightlifting.
Laser Spine Institute offers several outpatient procedures to help mitigate the effects of spinal arthritis. For example, our facet thermal ablation is a procedure that involves the use of a laser to clean the facet joint and deaden the local joint nerve, similar to how oral nerves are deadened during a root canal. Other minimally invasive procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute are designed to remove excess tissue like bone spurs and disc material that’s pressing on spinal nerves and causing pain. For more information, contact Laser Spine Institute today to receive a review of your MRI or CT scan.