Did glucosamine and MSM relieve my knee pain?


I just saw an article “Glucosamine and MSM for Joint Pain?” that brought up some old memories. The article examined whether these supplements are actually useful.

My story

I started running and hiking over a decade ago, at age 29. Some of my blog posts here have discussed why and how I started.

For the first couple of years of such activity, I was plagued with a lot of knee and other pain (especially shin pain). I experimented with many things, including changing types of shoes and foot landing form. Meanwhile, someone told me about MSM and swore by it for his joint pain, and shared some with me. He showed me packets of white powder he bought from bulk by mail order, and I periodically mixed some in with water to drink. I was never sure whether it was effective, but wanted to believe it was. But I still got knee pain periodically; I never knew whether I got it less bad than when I wasn’t taking MSM.

My actual solution to pain

Eventually, I did fix my knee pain, so I stopped taking MSM (and glucosamine, which I was taking also, as late as 2003).

My solution, found by sheer trial and error and desperation, was to migrate entirely to wearing only minimalist shoes: in particular, a zero-drop heel. Some experiments with different shoes revealed to me a clear correlation between knee pain and the height of the heel of a shoe.

It was very difficult for me to accept this solution, as I had acquired a large collection of non-minimalist shoes: in fact, I had stocked up on some of the “less bad” shoes and had boxes of shoes in my basement that I had never opened!

But the complete disappearance of my impact pain and injuries said it all.

Now, a decade later, there is much more widespread knowledge of the differences in impact forces depending on shoe style and foot strike. Obviously, there are many variables and individual differences in biomechanics, but here is a good overview of the sorts of things that happen during foot strike.

Shoe heel strike

I seem particularly susceptible to the forces on my knees when running in shoes with a built-up heel, so I have finally decided to completely abandon them. Up till now, I had abandoned them except for winter running when I did not have a good alternative.

I am currently evaluating suitable minimalist running shoes for winter, before winter arrives.


I learned a big lesson a decade ago when I tried to solve physical problems by throwing medication and supplements at them, and eventually found out that my problems had to do with misusing my body with shoes that disabled me from running in an optimally healthy way. Since then, I have never resorted to medication or fancy technology as the first step in solving problems.

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