Relieving the Agony of Arthritis

By Bonnie Jenkins, Advanced Natural Wellness

Knowing that something works and being able to prove it are two very different things. That’s been the case with a popular supplement that thousands of people swear by.

Methylsulfonylmethane, better known as MSM, has gotten rave reviews from arthritis sufferers for years. The problem was, there simply wasn’t much clinical evidence to back up these anecdotal reports. But new research gives solid evidence that MSM really does ease the agony of osteoarthritis. And, in light of the recent scandal over prescription painkillers like Vioxx and Bextra, this is great news!

A Phenomenon in the Making

In case you’re not familiar with MSM, it’s a fascinating supplement. It’s a naturally occurring organic compound packed with sulfur. But what makes MSM so different is that the precursor is formed by ocean plankton and released into the atmosphere, where it interacts with ozone and sunlight and returns to earth as MSM in rainfall. MSM is then taken up by plants.

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Animal studies have shown joints affected by osteoarthritis have a lower sulfur content. So you would think that boosting sulfur levels with MSM would improve disintegrating joints. And it does – in animals. Preliminary studies show that when mice with arthritis were given MSM, they experience less joint deterioration. But, until recently, no one had measured MSM’s efficacy in people. In fact, MSM was virtually ignored by both researchers and doctors, who preferred well-documented supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin. (Don’t get me wrong, both of these supplements are terrific for soothing pain and rebuilding cartilage.)

Fortunately, this new study, conducted by the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, will make it much more difficult for conventional medicine to ignore MSM. The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial involved 50 men and women suffering from mild to moderate osteoarthritis of the knee. The participants, who ranged in age from 40 to 76, were divided into two groups. One group was given 3,000 mg. of MSM twice a day, while the other received a placebo.
After 12 weeks, all of the subjects were assessed for pain, stiffness and range of motion. Compared to the placebo, MSM reduced pain significantly and improved physical function. Best of all, those taking the MSM were able to enjoy life again. Everyday activities became easier and there were no adverse side effects.

The More the Merrier

This new study lends credence to another recent study by Indian researchers. In this trial, 118 arthritis sufferers were randomly assigned to receive either 500 mg. of glucosamine, 500 mg. of MSM, a combination of both or a placebo three times a day. All of the patients were evaluated before the study started and several times during the treatment.
Four months later, the average pain score had fallen from 1.74 to 0.65 in those taking only glucosamine. The MSM-only group saw a drop from 1.53 to 0.74. But the people who took both glucosamine and MSM reduced their pain from 1.7 to 0.36. The researchers also found that the combination treatment had a faster effect on pain and inflammation compared to glucosamine alone.

I’m betting that these two clinical trials will give birth to others offering conclusive proof that MSM is yet another effective tool in the fight against arthritis. Meanwhile, if you’re taking a glucosamine-chondroitin supplement, you can add MSM to the mix for even more relief. A growing number of glucosamine supplements have MSM in their formulas. But if you’d rather take this safe and effective supplement separately, the typical dosage recommended by health experts is 1,000 to 3,000 mg. per day.

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According to its proponents, the benefits of MSM aren’t just limited to arthritis. It has also been credited with relieving headaches, back and muscle pain, and allergies. There is even some very preliminary evidence suggesting some possible MSM anti-cancer effects. Whether these claims pan out remains to be seen.

But since MSM does have pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties, it may indeed help to ease muscle pain. It’s also good for relieving itchy skin. Along with oral supplements, MSM creams have begun to make an appearance on store shelves. Be wary though, of inexpensive creams that contain scant amounts of MSM. The best creams contain at least 17 percent MSM – a fact which should be stated on the label.

This Just In . . .

Too often, colorectal cancer goes undetected until it’s too late. It’s a shame really, because this type of cancer – which is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. – is   so preventable. It’s also highly curable if detected early – which is why it’s critical to have a colonoscopy after age 50.

But you don’t have to wait until then to take action. According to a study published in the American Gastroenterological Association journal Gastroenterology, women with a high dietary intake of vitamin B6 have a decreased risk of developing colorectal cancer. Even women who drink moderate to large amounts of alcohol in addition to vitamin B6 have more than a 70 percent reduced risk of developing the disease.

Since consuming low amounts of vitamin B6 may lead to the development of cancerous polyps in the colon, it’s important for women to maintain a normal to high intake of vitamin B6. Better yet, it’s easy to do.

The recommended daily dietary intake of vitamin B6 is just 1.3 to 1.5 mg. But for maximum protection, it’s wise to make sure you’re getting 25 mg. a day. Vitamin B6 is found in a wide variety of foods, including fortified cereals, beans, meat, poultry, fish, and some fruits and vegetables. While it can be hard to tell just how much B6 your getting from food, taking a good multivitamin that contains at least 25 mg. of this important vitamin.

Even if you aren’t at high risk for colorectal cancer, increasing the amount of B6 you take makes sense. This vitamin performs a wide variety of functions in the body, including helping to maintain normal blood glucose levels, fighting off infections and creating the components in red blood cells that carry oxygen to your organs and tissues.


“Increased Vitamin B consumption reduces women’s risk of colorectal cancer.” EurekAlert. 3 June 2005.

Methylsulfonylmethane – MSM – Monograph. Alternative Medicine Review. Nov, 2003

“MSM provides pain relief for OA sufferers, says study.” NutraIngredients. 12 May 2005.

Usha P, Naidu M. “Randomised, Double-Blind, Parallel, Placebo-Controlled Study of Oral Glucosamine, Methylsulfonylmethane and their Combination in Osteoarthritis.”Clinical Drug Investigations. 2004;24:353-363.

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