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What Is Glucosamine Gel?

By Alex Terris
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Glucosamine gel provides an alternative method for administering the popular supplement. The substance is combined with a type of oil, usually one that easily blends into the skin, so it can be applied directly to painful areas rather than taken orally. It is commonly used to try to reduce joint pain stemming from cartilage degeneration. The safety and effectiveness of glucosamine supplements, including in gel form, is still debated by those in the medical profession.

There are a number of claimed benefits of glucosamine. The main one is said to be the prevention of cartilage degeneration in the joints, especially in those affected by osteoarthritis. It also is said to help reduce the pain associated with overuse conditions, such as knee tendinitis and other sports-related injuries.

Most glucosamine supplements are taken orally. Glucosamine gel, however, is applied directly to the skin. A purported benefit of glucosamine gel is that it can be rubbed directly into the joints, which means more of the substance reaches parts of the body affected by arthritis or other painful conditions. Glucosamine usually is combined with a type of oil, often menthol oils, so it can be easily applied to the skin.

Glucosamine gel also is sometimes used for massage, either by a massage professional or through self-massage. This can help to reduce inflammation while increasing the health of the muscle and other tissue. The type of gel makes a big difference to whether it is suitable for massage, however. Most types of gel are designed to quickly blend into the skin, which isn’t ideal for a long massage.

There have been a number of clinical trials to assess how effective glucosamine is at reducing the damage to joints, but there have been conflicting reports. Some trials have seen a reduction in joint damage, while others have seen little benefit. For this reason, as of 2011, there is still a debate among scientists and doctors as to whether glucosamine should be recommended to patients. Most of these trials have studied oral glucosamine tablets, however, rather than the gel.

Studies also have been performed to assess the safety of glucosamine. While most studies haven’t found many problems as long as the recommended dosage isn’t exceeded, there is some evidence to suggest that it may be dangerous at higher dosages. For this reason, it is not a good idea to take the supplement orally while also applying glucosamine gel without consulting a doctor first.

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Discussion Comments

By anon345232 — On Aug 17, 2013

I bought gluosamine gel at Holland and Barrett at a discounted price of $12 to try on my left knee. I take oral gluosamine, but it doesn't help to relieve my pain, which the gel does almost instantly, in only two applications.

There are some warnings that the gel is not safe during pregnancy.

By ZipLine — On Mar 02, 2013

I've been using glucosamine gel for the past three weeks and I like it. I'm not sure if it's treating my arthritis but it has definitely reduced my pain.

I bought the gel because I can't swallow glucosamine tablets. Also, this gel has menthol in it which is a topical pain reliever. I'm massaging the gel into my skin every day around my joints. I've noticed that my knees are less painful then they usually are.

By literally45 — On Mar 02, 2013

@fBoyle-- I'm not sure about the gel but I know that glucosamine tablets are not recommended during pregnancy because there aren't enough studies done on it.

I think the same must be true about glucosamine gel. It is after all, absorbed by the skin and enters the bloodstream much like the tablets do.

I would avoid using either until after birth/breastfeeding.

By fBoyle — On Mar 01, 2013

Is glucosamine gel safe during pregnancy?

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