Warning About MSM and Back Pain

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is also known as methyl sulfone. This inert chemical compound is a break down product of dimethlylsulfoxide. MSM has been widely touted to cure arthritis and relieve back pain. The people who advocate this substance for its use in various arthritic conditions claim that it is a miracle product. It is claimed that MSM can cure many medical disorders including snoring, diarrhea, peptic ulcer, respiratory ailment and arthritis.

All over the internet, almost every dealer claims something different. Infact there is not a disorder that can not be cured with MSM. Some dealer sites on cyberspace claim that MSM can reverse hair loss, increase libido, heal varicose veins, diminish allergies, keep skin young, treat acne, diabetes, carpal tunnel syndrome, lupus, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, parasites, muscle cramps, migraine, and keep you looking young- and this is only a partial list of what MSM can do.

The recommended dose is 0.5-1 mg/kg per day.

MSM is widely sold in many health food stores, spas and is readily available over the internet. MSM is available as a capsule, tablet, gel, lotion or cream. It is known that MSM does contain sulfur but the other ingredients in the formulation remain unknown. Most of these MSM containing formulations are made in the Orient and one can only imagine what else it contains.

The manufacturers of this substance indicate that a single dose of MSM is very rarely effective and the drug must be taken for at least 21 days or even longer to show any response. In fact they recommend that the higher the dose the better. For back pain, they recommend long term MSM therapy.

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The major constituent of MSM is sulfur. Because sulfur is deemed so safe there are no restrictions on the recommended dietary allowance. Thus, these manufacturers claim that one can take as much MSM as one wants. This will result in no complications and yet one will have all the benefits of an essential chemical.

As far as clinical studies are concerned, there is very little scientific data on MSM. Except for a few animal studies there is little known about it. The only anecdotal data on MSM are made by the manufacturers and dealers. There is not a single patient who has come forward and revealed that his/her diabetes or arthritis has been cured with MSM.

With regard to MSM and back pain, there is zero evidence that it does anything. Infact the FDA has already warned several dealers against making false claims about MSM. No one questions the fact that sulfur is needed by the body but the amounts needed are miniscule.

So for individuals seeking a miracle in MSM, you are going to be disappointed. For the moment, it is nothing more than a scam. And MSM does not come cheap. Ninety capsules cost anywhere from $15-$20 and you can add up the yearly cost. If you have back pain, go to a bona fide health care professional and seek medical therapy which works.


  • Ameye LG, Chee WS. Osteoarthritis and nutrition. From nutraceuticals to functional foods: a systematic review of the scientific evidence. Arthritis Res Ther. 2006; 8(4):R127. Review.