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MSM reduces joint pain and swelling in osteoarthritis patients

What is MSM?

MSM, rich in sulfur, is found in the human body. Clinical studies show that MSM reduces joint pain and swelling in osteoarthritis patients, while improving physical function and mobility.

Scientifically reviewed by: Amanda Martin, DC, in January 2024. Written by: Laurie Mathena.

MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is a compound found in some fruits, vegetables, and grains.1

Boosting the body's supply of MSM has been shown to reduce joint pain and swelling in people with osteoarthritis, while improving physical function and mobility.

These properties make MSM a popular nutrient for those seeking to support joint health.

Reducing Joint Pain

Human and animal model studies have shown beneficial effects of bathing in sulfur-rich thermal mineral waters.  

MSM, a sulfur-containing compound.2

An animal study showed significantly improved joint mobility in a treatment group that received baths in sulfur-rich water as compared to a control group that received no treatment, and another control group that was bathed in plain tap water. The sulfur-bath group also had decreased cartilage degeneration compared to controls.3

A human study of participants with osteoarthritis of the hand also showed similar improvements in joint pain and overall quality of life in the treatment group after three months of sulfur water bathing, compared to a control group that bathed in tap water.4

Human studies have found that oral intake of MSM can reduce joint pain and improve physical function in people suffering from osteoarthritis:

  • A randomized, placebo-controlled trial in adults with knee osteoarthritis found that taking 1,125 mg of MSM three times a day for 12 weeks resulted in some improvement in pain and physical function.5
  • In individuals with knee osteoarthritis, taking 3,000 mg of MSM twice a day for 12 weeks decreased pain and reduced physical impairment, compared to a placebo.6 The MSM group also reported improvements in performing daily activities.
  • In people with hip and/or knee osteoarthritis, taking 6,000 mg of MSM daily for 26 weeks decreased pain and improved functional performance, compared with a placebo.7
  • In a randomized controlled trial in Japanese people with mild knee joint pain, taking 2,000 mg of MSM daily for 12 weeks led to a significant reduction in pain as well as improvements in systemic health conditions as compared to placebo.8

These indicate that MSM reduces arthritis-related joint pain.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Osteoarthritis leads to degradation of joint cartilage that cushions the ends of bones, leading to pain, stiffness, and loss of mobility. Inflammation is one of the factors that contributes to the destruction of cartilage.

MSM combats osteoarthritis by:1

  1. Fighting inflammation, and
  2. Helping prevent cartilage damage.

In preclinical and clinical studies, MSM has well-documented anti-inflammatory effects, which include:

  • Inhibiting the inflammation-promoting protein complex NF-kB,
  • Inhibiting the release of inflammatory signaling proteins,1,9
  • Increasing levels of glutathione,1 the body's "master antioxidant."

In a preclinical study, MSM supplementation in mice with osteoarthritis resulted in significantly decreased cartilage surface degeneration.10

In a clinical trial of physically active men, participants were randomized to receive 3,000 mg of MSM or placebo 28 days prior to a knee exercise regimen. It was observed that in the group that received MSM, there was a reduction of inflammation-inducing IL-1 beta as well as a small decrease in proinflammatory cytokines.11

IL-1 beta is a key mediator of inflammatory response that is, along with other proinflammatory molecules, implicated in the destructive process of cartilage.1

This clinical study in physically active men demonstrated the potential of MSM to help prevent joint degeneration in arthritis.

Boosts Effects of Glucosamine and Chondroitin

MSM enhances the effects of two popular supplements for joint pain treatment: glucosamine and chondroitin.

Human studies have shown significant improvement in arthritis-associated pain and stiffness through the use of glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and MSM.12,13

A randomized controlled double-blind trial compared glucosamine and chondroitin either alone or combined with MSM. The group that received the combination that included MSM had significant improvements in pain and physical function after just four weeks.14

In another randomized, placebo-controlled trial, patients with osteoarthritis took one of the following for 12 weeks:15

  • Glucosamine 1500 mg alone,
  • MSM 1500 mg alone,
  • A combination of the Glucosamine and MSM, or
  • A placebo.

Compared with the placebo, all treatments led to impressive improvements in pain and swelling.

However, in the group taking glucosamine plus MSM, there was an astounding 79% reduction in the average pain score. The combination also worked faster than either treatment alone.

Summary

MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) helps support muscle and joint comfort, promoting joint mobility and function.

Oral intake of MSM can help combat inflammation that contributes to cartilage damage.

In clinical studies of people with osteoarthritis and joint discomfort, MSM reduces pain and swelling and improves physical function and joint mobility.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.

References

  1. Butawan M, Benjamin RL, Bloomer RJ. Methylsulfonylmethane: Applications and Safety of a Novel Dietary Supplement. Nutrients. 2017 Mar 16;9(3).
  2. Muizzuddin N, Benjamin R. Beauty from within: Oral administration of a sulfur-containing supplement methylsulfonylmethane improves signs of skin ageing. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2022Jul;92(3-4):182-91.
  3. Vaamonde-García C, Vela-Anero Á, Hermida-Gómez T, et al. Effect of balneotherapy in sulfurous water on an in vivo murine model of osteoarthritis. Int J Biometeorol. 2020 Mar;64(3):307-18.
  4. Kovacs C, Pecze M, Tihanyi A, et al. The effect of sulphurous water in patients with osteoarthritis of hand. Double-blind, randomized, controlled follow-up study. Clin Rheumatol. 2012Oct;31(10):1437-42.
  5. Debbi EM, Agar G, Fichman G, et al. Efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane supplementation on osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized controlled study. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011 Jun 27;11:50.
  6. Kim LS, Axelrod LJ, Howard P, et al. Efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) in osteoarthritis pain of the knee: a pilot clinical trial. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2006 Mar;14(3):286-94.
  7. Pagonis T. The Effect of Methylsulfonylmethane on Osteoarthritic Large Joints and Mobility. International Journal of Orthopaedics. 2014;1(1):1-6.
  8. Toguchi A, Noguchi N, Kanno T, Yamada A. Methylsulfonylmethane Improves Knee Quality of Life in Participants with Mild Knee Pain: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2023 Jun 30;15(13):2995.
  9. Joung YH, Darvin P, Kang DY, et al. Methylsulfonylmethane Inhibits RANKL-Induced Osteoclastogenesis in BMMs by Suppressing NF-kappaB and STAT3 Activities. PLoS One. 2016;11(7):e0159891.
  10. Ezaki J, Hashimoto M, Hosokawa Y, Ishimi Y. Assessment of safety and efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane on bone and knee joints in osteoarthritis animal model. J Bone Miner Metab. 2013 Jan;31(1):16-25.
  11. van der Merwe M, Bloomer RJ. The Influence of Methylsulfonylmethane on Inflammation-Associated Cytokine Release before and following Strenuous Exercise. J Sports Med (Hindawi Publ Corp). 2016 2016/10/23;2016:7498359.
  12. Nakasone Y, Watabe K, Watanabe K, et al. Effect of a glucosamine-based combination supplement containing chondroitin sulfate and antioxidant micronutrients in subjects with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis: A pilot study. Exp Ther Med. 2011 Sep;2(5):893-9.
  13. Vidyasagar S. Efficacy and Tolerability of Glucosamine Chondroitin Sulphate - Methyl Sulfonyl Methane (MSM) in Osteoarthritis of Knee in Indian Patients. Iranian Journal of Pharmacology and Therapeutics. 2004 31-Dec-2004;3.
  14. Lubis AMT, Siagian C, Wonggokusuma E, et al. Comparison of Glucosamine-Chondroitin Sulfate with and without Methylsulfonylmethane in Grade I-II Knee Osteoarthritis: A Double Blind Randomized Controlled Trial. Acta Med Indones. 2017 Apr;49(2):105-11.
  15. Usha PR, Naidu MU. Randomised, Double-Blind, Parallel, Placebo-Controlled Study of Oral Glucosamine, Methylsulfonylmethane and their Combination in Osteoarthritis. Clin Drug Investig. 2004;24(6):353-63.