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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Will glucosamine & chondroitin assist an athlete with a bulging disc?

Hi gary
I'm an athlete and have a bulging or herniated disc. Are there any supplements I can take to help heal the disc? I was thinking glucosamine and chondroitin with high strength fish and msm, if so in what amounts? Thank you for any help Paul
Gary Moller comments:
I always wondered myself if joint food preparations containing glucosamine and chondroitin were of any benefit for a herniated lumbar disc. After all, the joints of the spine are exactly that: joints. The only difference between them and, say the knee joints, is they are semi mobile with a thick fibrous outer sheath and a gel-like internal that provides shock absorption and flexing, extending, gliding and twisting. The physiology is the same, including the reliance on movement for nourishment. There are other joints in the spine: small articular joints of the spinous processes which can become worn and inflamed.

Chondroitin may assist with manitaining hydration of the spinal discs which tend to dry out as we get older and with damage such as suffered by Paul.

Several years ago I was working with a retired shearer who had had two spinal operations over the years, including a spinal fusion of L-4/L-5. He was suffering repeated severe bouts of back pain that had him buckled and bent to one side in spasms. After about a year of these disabling episodes, I suggested he try a course of Nutra-Life Glucosamine and Chondroitin which he dissolved in a drink bottle and sipped throughout the day having a steady infusion of about 8 rounded teaspoons per day.

To his and our immense delight, his back pain eased almost completely within about three months and I can report that he has not looked back since, despite suffering other though unrelated health problems since. I often recommend glucosamine and chondroitin - plus MSM for back pain nowadays and the results are generally very positive. It is a harmless and relatively cheap therapy. Even if there is no obvious benefit for the spine, at least the person is ensuring other joints like knees and hips are kept in good nick. After all, back problems can cause extra strain to go on these other hard working joints and the last thing a person with back pain needs is a crook knee!

So, I have no hesitation in recommending glucosamine and chondroitin preparations such as Nutra-Life Joint Food for back pain. I would add some MSM, preferably separately such as Kordel's MSM. MSM has a natural anti inflammatory effect and builds healthy collagen such as found in skin, hair, nails, ligaments and joint cartilage. An athlete can take extra a few days before, during and after anticipated extreme exercise and competition to aid recovery and healing.

How much should one take for a bulging disc? I recommend taking between 1500 and 3,000mg of glucosamine per day, spread through the day for about three months before backing off to a sustenance dose of about 1,000-1,500 per day. Doses of chondroitin are generally a few hundred mg less per day. MSM can be taken at about 2,000mg per day and then drop back to about 1,000mg after three months.

Once the three months are up, the idea is to fall into sustenance mode and step up the amounts around anticipated periods of stress or when pain is felt. After several months, relax and take some here and some there. I personally go in fits and starts with all supplements just for the sake of it.

Finally, exercise is essential for management of a bulging disc beginning with ensuring that the hips are strong and flexible. My book on Back Pain is a good start for exercises. If your hips are tight, then the stress of athletic exertion is transferred excessively onto the lumbar spine, so ensure you work on the hips. All the core exercise under the sun will be of no avail if the hips are tight and weak.