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Low Back Pain and Sciatica and Chondroitin

Written by sshowalter, FoundHealth.

Chondroitin sulfate is a naturally occurring substance in the body. It is a major constituent of cartilage—the tough, elastic connective tissue found in the joints.

Based on the evidence of preliminary double-blind studies, chondroitin is widely used as a treatment for osteoarthritis, the typical arthritis that many people suffer as they get older.

There is some evidence that chondroitin might go beyond treating symptoms and actually protect joints from damage. Current medical treatments for osteoarthritis, and lower back pain and sciatica, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), treat the symptoms but don't actually slow the disease's progression, and they may actually make it get worse faster.1-5 Chondroitin (along with glucosamine) may take the treatment of osteoarthritis to a new level. However, more research needs to be performed to prove definitively that this exciting possibility is real.

Effect of Chondroitin on Low Back Pain and Sciatica

As stated above, chondroitin has been mostly studied for it's ability to treat osteoarthritis. Therefore, the implications of it as an effective treatment for general low back pain and sciatica specifically can only be speculated.

To read more about the studies that have been done on chondroitin, read the osteoarthritis and chondroitin article.

Read more details about Chondroitin.

Safety Issues

Chondroitin generally does not cause much in the way of side effects, besides occasional mild digestive distress. However, there is one case report of an exacerbation of asthma caused by use of a glucosamine-chondroitin product. 1 In addition, there are theoretical concerns that chondroitin might have a mild blood-thinning effect, based on its chemical similarity to the anticoagulant drug heparin. Reassuringly, there are no case reports of any problems relating to this, and studies suggest that chondroitin has at most a mild anticoagulant effect. 2 Nonetheless, prudence suggests that, based on these findings, chondroitin should not be combined with blood-thinning drugs, such as warfarin (Coumadin), heparin , and aspirin , except under physician supervision. In addition, individuals with bleeding problems, such as hemophilia, or who are temporarily at risk for bleeding (for example, undergoing surgery or labor and delivery) should avoid chondroitin.

Interactions You Should Know About

If you are using drugs that impair blood coagulation, such as warfarin (Coumadin), heparin , aspirin , clopidogrel (Plavix), ticlopidine (Ticlid), or pentoxifylline (Trental), do not use chondroitin except under physician supervision.


  1. Tallia AF, Cardone DA. Asthma exacerbation associated with glucosamine-chondroitin supplement. J Am Board Fam Pract. 15(6):481-4.
  2. Abdel Fattah W, Hammad T. Chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine: A review of their safety profile. JANA. 2001;3:16-23.
  1. Brandt KD. Effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs on chondrocyte metabolism in vitro and in vivo. Am J Med. 1987;83:29-34.
  1. Brooks PM, Potter SR, Buchanan WW. NSAID and osteoarthritis—help or hindrance [editorial]. J Rheumatol. 1982;9:3-5.
  1. Shield MJ. Anti-inflammatory drugs and their effects on cartilage synthesis and renal function. Eur J Rheumatol Inflamm. 1993;13:7-16.
  1. Palmoski MJ, Brandt KD. Effects of some nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs on proteoglycan metabolism and organization in canine articular cartilage. Arthritis Rheum. 1980;23:1010-1020.
  1. Rashad S, Revell P, Hemingway A, et al. Effect of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs on the course of osteoarthritis. Lancet. 1989;2:519-522.

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