A recent study talked about in a Reuters article shows that taking regular doses of Glucosamine does nothing for chronic low back pain.Why?
Glucosamine and the complementary supplements such as chondroitin and MSM have been shown to be as effective as ibuprofen for arthritis pain in normal synovial joints with long-term use. However, the joints in the back work in a different way than the joints in the hands and knees.
The spinal joints are constantly weight bearing. Even when you are laying down, there is tension within the low back. the muscles are still putting a squeeze on the area. In the spine, there is a pair of joints in the back of the spine called the facet joints. These are synovial, just like the joints in the knuckles. In the front part of the spine, the body of the spine bone sits on a disc that is made of fibers–like a ligament.
Because the disc always has pressure on it, there can’t be any blood vessels within it. They would collapse under pressure. Blood, therefore, can’t deliver nutrients directly to the disc material. Nutrients get delivered to the disc in a process called imbibition. With imbibition, nutrients get squeezed and sucked into the disc through the blood in the bone. This only happens with movement.
The movement that the discs require for nutrient delivery is the big reason why glucosamine doesn’t tend to work with low back problems. Usually low back arthritis forms not from a lack of nutrients circulating through the body, but through a lack of movement in the spine delivering the fluids. Without movement, or proper movement, there is no imbibition, and the spine doesn’t receive its nutrients.
The spine needs movement to survive. The lack of nutrient delivery from the lack of movement is only part of the story, however. Without movement, metabolic wastes build up. These metabilic wastes are inflammatory chemicals and acids that eat away at the collagen fibers and the glycosaminoglycans that compose the disc materials. Without good movement to the spine, you are not only missing out on new nutrients, but you are letting harmful chemicals build up.
Now you know why I get my own spine adjusted once a week (at least.)
Now, that’s only half the story. The other half of the story has to do with the nervous system. Without good movement, the whole nervous system misses out on feedback from the spine. This has potentially far-reaching ramifications.
Todd Lloyd, DC
chiropractor in Salt Lake City, UT