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MSM for Joints and Athletic RecoveryMSM for Joints and Athletic Recovery

December 13, 2010

4 Min Read
MSM for Joints and Athletic Recovery

by Stanley Jacob, M.D., and Rodney Benjamin

It seems everywhere we turn, another authority is telling us we need to exercise more. The Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans advises adults to exercise at least two-and-a-half hours weekly. Harvard Medical School has reported five of every six Americans do not meet weekly recommendations for cardiovascular and muscle-strengthening activity.1

At the same time they are exercising less, Americans are aging and gaining weight.  This has contributed to the rise in joint pain issues, especially among those who turn to athletics to address weight control. These and other athletes are looking for relief from increased injuries and joint pain, often turning to exercise recovery products, including MSM (methylsulfonylmethane).

For more a decade, MSM has been used by professional athletes for its nutritional support of their overall performance. Although few of us think of ourselves athletes, many Americans lead active lifestyles and most would welcome decreased joint paint and more rapid recovery. 

MSM is a naturally occurring nutrient that contains sulfur and methyl groups.  It is frequently found in joint support products and is supported by studies showing MSM supports overall joint health and helps preserve normal range of motion.2,3

Vigorous exercise can cause oxidative stress; the reactive oxygen species (ROS) and free radicals generated by exercise can accumulate, potentially causing tissue damage, and may contribute to the development of age-related chronic joint disease.  Growing evidence suggests MSM is effective in reducing ROS and free radicals in individuals subjected to oxidative stress.  Research indicates MSM aids in short-term recovery by reducing inflammatory immune responses and swelling.4

The influence of MSM on the production of ROS compounds suggests an ability to prevent, or at least to moderate, the production of excess ROS at an intercellular level.5 However, MSM is not a significant free radical scavenger.6 

In one of the best-recognized studies of MSM efficacy in joint health, two secondary compounds, urine malondialdehyde (MDA) and homocysteine, were measured at baseline and at 12 weeks.7 The MSM test subjects showed a decrease in urine MDA levels significantly different from placebo, suggesting positive changes in oxidative stress; homocysteine levels also decreased significantly.  These decreases suggest a potential role for MSM in supporting metabolic processes requiring methylation, such as a bodys ability to combat oxidative stress.

MSM has been shown to increase levels of glutathione, a compound recognized by trainers, athletes and scientific experts for its ability to enhance exercise recovery. One study showed a dramatic increase in oxidized glutathione immediately after exhaustive physical exercise and further found that glutathione or other antioxidant administration after physical exercise are effective in preventing oxidation of the blood glutathione pool.


Such studies are part of an increasing body of evidence supporting the ability of MSM to improve overall athletic performance and exercise recovery. In addition, MSM presents a strong safety profile and may be formulated into functional foods and beverages, with the potential to reach a growing consumer market. MSM designated as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) can be incorporated into meal supplement and meal replacement foods, fruit smoothie-type drinks, and fruit-flavored/thirst quencher-type beverages.

These factors, coupled with the unique opportunities afforded by a growing societal awareness of the benefits of increased activity, suggest the need for further investigation of the potential mechanisms and benefits of MSM in the role of human exercise recovery. 

Stanley Jacob, M.D., heads DMSO.org, and Rodney Benjamin is director of technical development at Bergstrom Nutrition. The Vancouver, WA- based company operates the worlds only facility dedicated solely to production of the highest quality methylsulfonylmethane (MSM).   Its GRAS-designated, GMP-certified and -compliant products include OptiMSM®.

References are on the next page...

References for MSM for Joint Health and Athletic Recovery



1.       Harvard Heart Letter, Harvard Medical School, October 6, 2010, Americans Lag on Exercise

2.       Usha PR et al. Randomised, Double-Blind, Parallel, Placebo-Controlled Study of Oral Glucosamine, Methylsulfonylmethane and their Combination in Osteoarthritis. Clin Drug Invest. 2004;24(6):353-63.

3.       Kim LS et al. Southwest College Research Institute, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and Health Sciences, Tempe, AZ, March 2006.

4.       Hasegawa T et al. Anti-inflammatory effect of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) in mice. Jpn Pharmacol Ther 2005;33:1217-23.

5.       Beilke, MA et al. Effects of dimethyl sulfoxide on the oxidative function of human nutraphils. J Lab Clin Med. 1987;110:91-96.

6.       MSM:  The Definitive Guide, Jacob and Appleton, 2003, Freedom Press.

7.       Loc. Cit. Kim LS.

8.       DeSilvestro RA et al. Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) Intake in Mice Produces Elevated Liver Glutathione and Partially Protects Against Carbon Tetrachloride Induced Liver Injury. The FASB Journal. 2008;22:445.8.



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