Chondroitin sulphate, a dietary supplement widely available over the counter, significantly decreases pain and improves hand function in patients with osteoarthritis of the hand, a randomised controlled trial has shown.
A study by Swiss researchers also found chondroitin sulfate improved secondary outcomes of grip strength and morning stiffness compared with placebo.
The trial of 162 symptomatic patients gave them either 800mg chondroitin sulfate or placebo once daily for six months.
The absolute decrease in global hand pain, as measured by the Visual Analogue Scale, was 7.4mm lower in patients on chondroitin sulfate than in the placebo group.
The difference in absolute levels of hand function also improved significantly more in patients on chondroitin sulphate, which showed an improvement of 1.4 points on the Functional Index for Hand Osteoarthritis.
There was a small but significant decrease of 4.5 minutes in the duration of morning stiffness seen in patients treated with chondroitin sulfate compared with those receiving placebo, and at the final visit their mean grip strength had improved by 1.9kg/cm2.
Dr Cem Gabay, a rheumatologist at the University Hospitals of Geneva, concluded: ‘Chondroitin sulphate is effective and safe in the treatment of patients with hand OA and provides an interesting therapeutic alternative for the management of this frequent condition.'
Arthritis & Rheumatism 2011, online 8 September