Are there any adverse effects from long-term use of MSM for arthritis pain?
Answers from Brent A. Bauer, M.D.
That's not an easy question to answer because there's not a lot of research on the long-term effects of the dietary supplement called methylsulfonylmethane (MSM). MSM is formed using dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO), an organic form of sulfur that's also used as a dietary supplement.
Animals observed for 90 days on a daily dose of MSM five to seven times greater than what's typically used in people had no serious problems. Stomach upset, diarrhea and headache have been reported in human trials of MSM lasting up to 12 weeks. However, people taking a placebo also reported similar symptoms.
Since little is known about the long-term safety of MSM, it's no surprise that the efficacy also is unclear. Some studies have shown slight improvements in arthritis symptoms, but these studies were small and short term, so no definitive conclusions can be made.
Although there is great interest in using MSM to treat a variety of conditions, including arthritis, more research is needed to determine its benefits and risks.
June 06, 2014
See more Expert Answers
- MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane). Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed April 14, 2014.
- Gregory PJ, et al. Dietary supplements for osteoarthritis. American Family Physician. 2008;77:177.
- Horvath K, et al. Toxicity of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) in rats. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2002;40:1459.
- Lopez HL. Nutritional interventions to prevent and treat osteoarthritis. Part II: Focus on micronutrients and supportive nutraceuticals. Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. 2012;4:s155.
- Debbi EM, et al. Efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane supplementation on osteoarthritis of the knee: A randomized controlled study. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2011;11:50.
- Brien S, et al. Systematic review of the nutritional supplements dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. 2008;16:1277e.