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MSM: The Versatile Pain Reliever

by Michael B. Schachter, MD, FACAM

I'm sure many of you have heard of a substance called DMSO, which has been used to relieve the stiffness and pain of arthritis by rubbing it into your skin.  DMSO or dimethyl sulfoxide is a chemical derived from tree bark that was found in the 1950's and 60's primarily by Dr. Stanley Jacob from the University of Oregon to have remarkable solvent and healing properties.  Over the years, many studies have been done worldwide to study this remarkable simple compound.  It is an amazing solvent, which has been used both in industry and in medicine to carry other substances across cell membranes in veterinarian medicine and for people, especially outside the United States.  In the United States, it is approved by the FDA for administration into the bladder for a chronic inflammatory condition that mostly affects women.  Vets use it to treat the injured limbs of horses and other animals.  One problem associated with DMSO is that it produces an odor similar to garlic or oysters on the breath of any animal or human that uses it, whether it is taken as an injection, orally or rubbed into the skin.

A similar compound called dimethyl sulfone, methyl sulfonyl methane or simply MSM has become very popular lately because it possesses almost all of the therapeutic benefits of DMSO, but does not produce the odor.  MSM is a breakdown product of DMSO in the body.  It is also found in small quantities in milk, some fruits and vegetables and other foods.  In their recently published book, The Miracle of MSM (Putman, 1999), Dr. Stanley Jacobs and his co-authors give an accurate and almost incredible description of the benefits of this remarkable compound.  It has been used with beneficial effects with all forms of arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, back pain, muscle pain, tendonitis, bursitis, headaches, athletic injuries, heartburn, asthma and allergies of all kinds.  It relieves pain, reduces inflammation, passes through cell membranes, including the skin, dilates blood vessels, thereby increasing blood flow, improves constipation, relieves muscle spasm, reduces scar tissue, has anti-parasitic properties and an immune normalizing effect. 

It is safe even in high dosages. Extrapolating from animal studies, dosages as high as 550 grams per day in a 150-pound person in long-term studies appear safe. The usual dose is between 1/2 and 40 grams daily in as low a dose as possible to accomplish therapeutic goals.  It is probably best taken as a powder dissolved in warm water or other liquid, although pills and capsules are available.  Possible side effects may include upset stomach or diarrhea, but generally it is quite safe.  MSM may be used with other supplements and may be an extremely useful addition to nutritional programs for any of the above-mentioned conditions.

2000 Michael B. Schachter, MD



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2019 Michael B. Schachter, M.D., P.C. 
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