When the pain of arthritis hits, there are two options: either deal with this now, or deal with this later.
If you choose to reach for a painkiller, you’re effectively choosing “now'”. Pain relief medication cuts off the signals of pain, so though the cartilage at the joints are still deteriorating we are at least given a rest from the accompanying pain.
If you choose to take the supplement glucosamine, however, you’re choosing “later”. Glucosamine is a naturally-occurring building block for cartilage. Taking it as a supplement allows the cartilage to rebuild and strengthen, so that the bones (in time) are no longer rubbing against each other.
Initially, glucosamine is much less effective than painkillers in actually dulling the pain. That said, in the long term glucosamine is far more successful, because when the pain finally does recede it is because the source of the pain has been eliminated by reinforced cartilage.
Dr. Julian Whitaker explains it here:
Dr. Whitaker: Arthritis and Glucosamine
Arthritis can effect your entire outlook on life, much as any chronic pain condition can. It’s harder to enjoy special events when it hurts to move, and it can be so tempting to just take the fastest way out even if the pain is guaranteed to come right back in a few hours. Next time it hits (or even better, before!), consider taking a natural supplement instead. You’re just helping your body do what it does naturally, and in the long-term you’ll be glad!