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Glucosamine and Osgood-Schlatter Disease
Q: Is it safe and effective to give my 14-year-old son glucosamine and chondroitin to treat Osgood-Schlatter disease?
A: Osgood-Schlatter disease is an inflammation of a bony area just below the knee where a tendon attaches over a growth plate. The pain occurs because of the stress placed on this area from intense physical activity, such as with jumping and running. It is most common when athletically active children are going through their pubertal growth spurt.
The standard treatment for Osgood-Schlatter is to use something for pain (for example, non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen), ice, and most of all, rest from the strenuous activity. The pain usually subsides with such a plan. In most cases, the pain will completely subside when the child's growth plate closes at the end of the growth spurt.
Chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine are two substances that have been used to treat joint pain in adults. These are produced naturally in our bodies and are essential for development of the cartilage that covers the ends of long bones that form joints like the knee and shoulder. There is no published research on the effectiveness of chondroitin or glucosamine for the treatment of Osgood-Schlatter disease. Moreover, these compounds are sold as nutritional supplements and not as medications, so they are not subjected to the same rigorous testing for safety as prescription drugs. There is very little information on the safety of their use in children. Therefore, I would not recommend using these supplements to treat your teen's Osgood-Schlatter's.
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Henry Bernstein, M.D., is currently the associate chief of the Division of General Pediatrics and director of Primary Care at Children's Hospital, Boston. He also has an academic appointment at Harvard Medical School.