MSM is thought to be effective in the fight against Osteoarthritis (OA) and other joint pain because of its high sulfur content, one of the building blocks of healthy joints.
What Causes Joint Pain?
Osteoarthritis (OA) and physical strain can lead to joint pain and swelling. MSM has been shown to relieve pain associated with OA. It has also shown anti-inflammatory effects in animal research.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a nearly universal consequence of aging among vertebrates. Over 40 million Americans have some form of degenerative joint disease, including 80% of people over 50 years old. By the seventh decade, OA is nearly universal, producing the highest rate of morbidity of any disease.
Joints affected by OA suffer from uneven loading, which leads to altered lines of weight bearing. Cartilage (made by cells called chondrocytes) begins to build up to compensate for the uneven load, which forms roughening and deformities in the joint surface. The joints inflame and no longer operate smoothly, but instead the ball and socket rub unevenly from the friction of the outgrowths of cartilage and bone, called osteophytes. These changes cause irritation, triggering more cartilage growth and inflammation– and the cycle of degeneration is set into motion. Science has been unsuccessful in finding a cure for OA, so instead, treatment focuses on easing the symptoms.
Sports injuries, tennis elbow, and tendonitis involve inflammation and micro-trauma to the soft tissues around the joints.
The inflammation caused by these injuries can easily become chronic due to overuse or improper after-care, resulting in symptoms not unlike arthritis: soreness, stiffness, and general pain in the region.
The Role of Sulfur in Joint Pain
MSM is thought to deliver sulfur to the body in a useable way. Sulfur helps maintain the structure of connective tissue by forming cross-linkages through disulfide bonds, i.e., sulfur strengthens the tissues that make up the joint.
Sulfur is critical to good joint health. Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) are the fundamental building blocks of joint cartilage, and GAG molecules are linked together in chains by disulfide bonds. As the name implies, these bonds are between two sulfur atoms. The disulfide bridges reduce conformational flexibility of GAG chains, making cartilage firm and resilient. Cartilage integrity is thus a sulfur-dependent state.
MSM contains a lot of sulfur – 34% by weight. While more research is needed to determine how the body absorbs the sulfur it needs from MSM, preliminary studies in mice and in horses suggest that the sulfur in MSM is incorporated into proteins and into joint tissues.