Anecdotal reports of rapid symptomatic response to high-dose glucosamine in osteoarthritis are not credibly explained by the traditional view that glucosamine promotes synthesis of cartilage proteoglycans. An alternative or additional possibility is that glucosamine stimulates synovial production of hyaluronic acid (HA), which is primarily responsible for the lubricating and shock-absorbing properties of synovial fluid. Many clinical and veterinary studies have shown that intra-articular injections of high-molecular-weight HA produce rapid pain relief and improved mobility in osteoarthritis. HA has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, and promotes anabolic behavior in chondrocytes. The concentration and molecular weight of synovial fluid HA are decreased in osteoarthritis; by reversing this abnormality, high-dose glucosamine may provide rapid symptomatic benefit, and in the longer term aid the repair of damaged cartilage.