Pain in the joints, muscles, or bones is one of the most common ailments found in adults, with 18.8 million people in the UK believed to have a musculoskeletal condition such as osteoarthritis or gout, roughly equating t0 3 in 10 of us.
For some it might simply be a minor annoyance, for others, crippling. This is where MSM, or methylsulfonylmethane (a term as unpronounceable as nutrition terms get), comes in. MSM is a sulphur-rich compound chemical found in a number of natural foods including coffee, beer, tea, tomatoes, leafy green vegetables, apples, raspberries, and whole grains.
It has also become a popular dietary supplement in recent years, used primarily as an anti-inflammatory agent. And, if studies are to be believed, it might have a profound effect on your joint pain.
What The Science Says
The main study around MSM and joint pain was a 12-week randomised trial on 100 people over the age of 50 led by Chinese researchers in conjunction with UCLA Medical Center. The study found that treatment with a supplement containing 1,200 mg of MS decreased pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints when compared to a placebo. The group receiving the supplement also reported improved overall quality of life and less difficulty walking and getting out of bed.
Another study on 49 people with knee osteoarthritis found that taking 3.4 grams of MSM per day for 12 weeks reduced pain and stiffness and improved physical function, compared to a placebo
It is believed that MSM’s impact on joint pain might be down to its anti-inflammatory properties along with its ability to inhibit the breakdown of cartilage, a flexible tissue that protects the ends of your bones in joints.
Are There Any Other Benefits To Taking MSM?
While not as well researched, there are some other benefits to taking MSM besides its effect on musculoskeletal pain.
Take one study on 50 people with allergic rhinitis which found that a dose of 2,600 mg of MSM per day over 30 days reduced symptoms including itching, congestion, shortness of breath, sneezing and coughing.
And just last year a study on 63 participants found that 1g to 3g of MSM taken over a 16 week period led to a significant improvement in the severity of facial wrinkles as well as improved skin firmness and elasticity.
MSM is considered safe and well-tolerated with the FDA giving it a Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) designation. In terms of upper limits, numerous toxicity studies have been undertaken to assess the safety of MSM and found doses up to 4.8 grams per day appear to be safe.
Most MSM supplements on the market are found to be around the 1000mg mark, so it’d be difficult to get anywhere near this level.