Are there any adverse effects from long-term use of MSM for arthritis pain?
Answer 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 dimethyl sulfoxide (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.
July 13, 2017
See more Expert Answers
- Methylsulfonylmethane. Natural Medicines. https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com. Accessed June 15, 2017.
- Brien S, et al. Meta-analysis of the related nutritional supplements dimethyl sulfoxide and methylsulfonylmethane in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee. Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2011;2011:528403.
- Dietary supplements for osteoarthritis: What the science says. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/providers/digest/osteoarthritis-supplements-science. Accessed June 20, 2017.
- Butawan M. Methylsulfonylmethane: Applications and safety of a novel dietary supplement. Nutrients. 2017;9:e290.
- Panush RS. Complementary and alternative remedies for rheumatic disorders. https://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 20, 2017.
- Debbi EM, et al. Efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane supplementation on osteoarthritis of the knee: A randomized controlled study. Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2011;11:50.