Scientists are still uncertain exactly how MSM works to help the body. We don’t know that the body uses sulfur in the formation of connective tissues.
One theory about how MSM works notes that sulfur appears to be a necessary element for healthy cartilage. Patients who have arthritis appear to have about one-third the level of sulfur in their cartilage than is found in the cartilage of healthy people who do not have arthritis.
Other theories focus on the formation of pressure-inducing fluid in cells. Joints become stiff when toxins around the cell walls in the body create a leathery membrane that keeps fluid and toxins in the cell. Once it is filled with fluid, the cell begins to swell with fluid, putting pressure on nerve endings and creating stiffness. It is believed that MSM makes cells permeable so fluids can flow freely through the cell wall, removing the toxins in the cell, thus promoting healthy joint lubrication.
MSM is believed to increase energy at the cellular level by catalyzing the chemical reactions which change food into energy. Some researchers have theorized that this chemical reaction may explain the impressive pain-relieving qualities of MSM. MSM also works to help in maintaining the structure of the proteins in the body, helping the formation of keratin which is essential for hair and nail growth, aiding in the production of immunoglobulin which maintains the immune system, and catalyzing the chemical reactions which change food into energy.
Researchers continue to study MSM and are trying to understand exactly how MSM works in the body. There is, however, a strong link between sulfur and pain relief in humans. For thousands of years, people have visited natural hot mineral springs that are rich in sulfur to relieve their joints and muscles from pain.