Skip to main content

Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO) and Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) for Osteoarthritis

Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) are two chemically related substances that have been studied for osteoarthritis. DMSO is used topically (applied to the skin). MSM is sold as a dietary supplement, either alone or in combination with other ingredients such as glucosamine.

Bottom Line

Only a small amount of research has been conducted on DMSO or MSM for osteoarthritis. No conclusions can be reached about whether either of these substances is helpful.

Safety

  • The safety of DMSO and MSM is uncertain because little research has been done on this topic. Side effects of DMSO include digestive upset, skin irritation, and a garlic-like taste, breath, and body odor. Side effects of MSM include allergic reactions, digestive upsets, and skin rashes.
  • If you’re using or considering DMSO or MSM for osteoarthritis, consult your health care provider.

For more information on osteoarthritis, visit the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Web site.

For More Information

NCCIH Clearinghouse

The NCCIH Clearinghouse provides information on NCCIH and complementary and integrative health approaches, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.

Toll-free in the U.S.: 1-888-644-6226

Telecommunications relay service (TRS): 7-1-1

Website: https://nccih.nih.gov/

Email: info@nccih.nih.gov (link sends email)

Know the Science

NCCIH and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provide tools to help you understand the basics and terminology of scientific research so you can make well-informed decisions about your health. Know the Science features a variety of materials, including interactive modules, quizzes, and videos, as well as links to informative content from Federal resources designed to help consumers make sense of health information.

Explaining How Research Works (NIH)

Know the Science: 9 Questions To Help You Make Sense of Health Research

Understanding Clinical Studies (NIH)

PubMed®

A service of the National Library of Medicine, PubMed® contains publication information and (in most cases) brief summaries of articles from scientific and medical journals. For guidance from NCCIH on using PubMed, see How To Find Information About Complementary Health Approaches on PubMed.

Website: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)

The mission of NIAMS is to support research into the causes, treatment, and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases; the training of basic and clinical scientists to carry out this research; and the dissemination of information on research progress in these diseases.

Toll-free in the U.S.: 1-877-22-NIAMS

Website: https://www.niams.nih.gov

This publication is not copyrighted and is in the public domain. Duplication is encouraged.

NCCIH has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCIH.

Last Updated: September 2017