How supplements can reduce joint or bone problems

6 June 2016  |  Editor


How supplements can reduce joint or bone problems

Go and view or by health supplements designed to help joint and bone health including those for osteoarthritis

Healthy Joints

A joint is the place where the ends of two bones meet. In a healthy joint these ends are separated from each other by a layer of cartilage that prevents them from rubbing together. Synovial fluid, secreted from the membrane that lines the joint, lubricates and reduces friction between the bone ends.

Unhealthy Joints

There are a few ways in which things can go wrong in the joint. The cartilage that should buffer the ends of the joints can be worn away. This is primarily wear and tear damage, and can be caused by sporting activities, jobs demanding high levels of physical activity, or being overweight. The ends of the bones then rub painfully together, causing inflammation and pain. (Sometimes the bones go on to fuse together, causing immobility of the joint.)

This type of damage is usually identified as osteoarthritis.The ends of the bones, the cartilage and the membrane around the joint can all be attacked by the body’s immune system if it goes wrong and starts mistaking the body’s own tissues as enemies. This is known as an autoimmune disease, and is identified as rheumatoid arthritis. 

As the immune system is pretty good at attacking what it thinks are bugs and germs, the joints and surrounding tissues can become severely damaged.

Arthritic-type pain can also be caused by uric acid and calcium crystals being deposited in joints, causing pain as they get in between the ends of the bones. This factor may accompany the previous arthritic conditions or may exist on its own, in which case it may be identified as gout or a gouty form of arthritis.

Remedies for inflammatory joint pain

All of the types of arthritic and rheumatic pain outlined here involve inflammation, which creates heat, swelling and pain. Getting the inflammation under control will reduce pain levels and lessen the damage being done to the joint and surrounding tissues.

Arnica extracts

Externally appllied Arnica extracts have been used traditionally to help with inflammatory pain. For best results with pain relief massage the arnica preparation onto the painful joint. Arnica products should be used as directed on the product packaging or as advised by a practitioner. Use it on unbroken skin, and try a small dab first to rule out allergy to Arnica flowers. Do not use arnica extact if you have a known allergy to the arnica plant.

Research has shown a gel form of Arnica Extract to have as much effect as Ibuprofen gel
in a study of more than 200 people with osteoarthritic pain in the fingers.

The number of painful joints was decreased significantly, morning joint stiffness decreased, and the patients generally preferred the Arnica gel. (See arnica gel here)

Devil’s Claw extracts

Although a topical treatment such as Arnica is great when you need to focus on a particular area such as a joint, internal treatments that work throughout the body are helpful when pain is widespread or reaches several areas.

Devil’s claw extracts in the form of tablets and tinctures have also been traditionally used to to relieve inflammatory pain and so help improve mobility of those with arthritic or rheumatic conditions.

Devil’s claw extracts should be taken as recommended on the product packaging or as advised by a practitioner (See Devil's Claw here).

Glucosamine sulphate

Helps to maintain and renew one of the major constituents of cartilage, the layer of buffering material that should be found between the ends of the joints but can be damaged or worn away. A supplement of 1,500 mg glucosamine sulphate daily is used in cases where damage or wear and tear erosion has taken place. (See Glucosamine products here.)

MSM – a Breakthrough Nutrient 

For more than fifteen years, 70-year-old veteran actor James Coburn suffered from crippling rheumatoid arthritis. He explored lifestyle, food allergy elimination diets, deep tissue massage, electro-magnetic energy, homeopathy and even the laying on of hands. The pain and stiffness remained with small improvements with each new therapy. Then he was introduced to MSM (methylsulfonylmethane).

"It was like a miracle”, he says. "The pain stopped. In three days I started to swing a golf club.” After six months of MSM the actor says that he has virtually no pain. (See MSM products here)

Background to MSM

The old name for sulphur is brimstone – its foul smell associated with demons and the fires of Hades. But sulphur is one of the minerals most crucial to life, and an organic form of it, known as MSM, has many remarkable therapeutic properties, from nourishing hair and nails to fighting parasites, clearing up allergies, dealing with digestive problems and relieving the pain of arthritis.

Earl Mindell, author of the Vitamin Bible says this:

"The sulphur our bodies need is available in animal protein foods such as meats, fish, poultry, eggs and milk. Grains, legumes and fresh, unprocessed vegetables like onions, garlic, cabbage, Brussel sprouts and broccoli contribute lesser amounts of this important mineral. Consequently, vegetarians and other people who may have inadequate intake of protein or those with a higher protein need (growing children, for example) may also lack sufficient sulphur to meet the body’s needs.

MSM is neither a medicine nor a drug. It is a member of the sulphur family but should never be confused with sulfa drugs, to which some people are allergic. MSM has been used as a dietary supplement for more than ten years, with no reports of intolerance or allergic reaction. Short, medium and longer-term studies indicate that MSM exhibits very low toxicity no matter how it is administered. How low? Its profile is similar to that of water! Within limits, you cannot overdose with MSM because the body will take and use whatever it needs, and after a 12-hour period, will flush any excess amounts from the body.

Sulphur is highly important. Approximately half of the total body sulphur is concentrated in the muscles, skin and bones. It is present in keratin, the tough substance in the skin, nails and hair. Sulphur is necessary for making collagen, the primary constituent of cartilage and connective tissue.

In conjunction with vitamins and amino acids, MSM provides the body with the necessary raw materials to create healthy new cells. Optimal health is dependent on maintaining the process for producing healthy and flexible cells. It’s a 24-hour-a-day job because the body never stops producing new cells. Without proper nutrition, however, the body can run short of the materials it needs. Lacking sufficient MSM, the body is a compromised system, deficient in its ability to repair or replace damaged tissue and organs. The inability of the body to do its work causes it to produce dysfunctional cells which can lead to illness and disease..

The nerves that sense pain are located mainly in the soft tissues of our bodies. Many types of pain can be attributed to pressure differential involving the cells that make up tissue. When outside pressure drops, cells inflate and become inflamed. Nerves register the inflammation and we experience pain symptoms. Did you ever hear of anyone predicting weather changes because of pain they feel in their joints? Often, what contributes to the pain is the lack of flexibility and permeability in the fibrous tissue cells. Use of MSM has been shown to add flexibility to cell walls while allowing fluids to pass through the tissue more easily. This softens the tissue and helps to equalize pressure thereby reducing if not totally eliminating the cause of the pain. This extraordinary property of MSM can help treat a wide variety of conditions that afflict millions of people every day. 

It is important to recall that we lose a great deal of MSM in the normal preparation of food, and as a result may be denying our body a critical nutritional tool it needs.”

MSM is a close chemical cousin to DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide), a topical analgesic that became popular in the 1970s. Stanley Jacob, M.D. of Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland discovered DMSO’s pain-relieving properties. By the late 1970s he became interested in MSM, the major metabolite of DMSO, and Jacob began treating patients with it.

He says he has used MSM successfully to treat more than 18,000 patients with a variety of autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis. Here’s a look at some of the conditions that benefit from MSM:

Aches and Pains

MSM may help relieve symptoms of many types of musculoskeletal pain and inflammation, including rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, says Jacob. In one unpublished study, Ronald M Lawrence, MD, PhD, as assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, and co-author with Jacob of The Miracle of MSM asked 16 arthritic patients, ages 55 to 78 years, to take either 2250 mg of MSM or a placebo daily. After four months, patients taking MSM reported an overall 82% reduction in pain (compared with an 18% reduction for those taking placebos). Another unpublished study by Lawrence found that MSM reduced pain and other symptoms associated with athletic injuries. MSM’s mode of action was partly elucidated in an animal study, which found that MSM reduced joint inflammation and prevented the breakdown of cartilage.

Food and pollen allergies

Although the mechanism isn’t clear, Jacob believes that MSM can often relieve symptoms of food and pollen allergies among patients. According to Jacob, the dosage varies from person to person – 2 to 8 gm daily, divided into two doses – but not everyone with allergies improves.

Skin healing

Sulphur is vital for skin, collagen and other ‘connective tissue’ because it is essential for the flexible bonds between the molecules that make up these cells. This is why taking MSM, an organic source of sulphur, can enhance the skin’s elasticity and help restore damaged skin. Doctors with experience of MSM report that scars may fade or disappear, and that burns, bruises, cuts and scrapes are repaired more quickly. Nails, too, become stronger and more flexible and hair is strengthened.


A beautician from Burlington, Ontario, Liz Miners – Dr Jacob reports – recommends taking MSM internally to feed the skin from the inside. She takes 5 grams with water each day. "You can use the cream on your face, arms, feet and hands,” she states. "It has healing benefits wherever you put it. One of my customers is a woman with dermatitis. Her face and neck would always look slightly scalded. She has been using cortisone creams for many years and they don’t seem to be doing much for her anymore. Now she’s taking about 5 grams of MSM crystals with MSM cream. After five weeks her skin has almost totally cleared up.”

Another of her customers used MSM cream on her heels, which were always leathery and cracking. After three to four weeks her heels became much softer. But when she stopped using MSM the condition returned. Now she uses it continually and her heels are better again.

Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea, characterised by episodic halts in breathing and sleep-disruptive snoring, is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. In one study yet to be published, Israeli researchers found that 15 of 22 sleep apnea patients improved after MSM administration, and seven of them had significant improvements in snoring and sleep quality. "Short of surgery or some device that lessens your ability to sleep comfortably, MSM is the best thing,” says Jacob.

Pain beneath the skin

Applying MSM to the skin may also be a way of reaching any painful joints and tissues underneath. From time immemorial, arthritis sufferers have sought relief in hot mineral springs, rich in sulphur. Can hot sulphur springs actually benefit arthritis? Yes, believes a scientific study reported in the German medical journal Praxis. After 10 baths, 61% of the patients showed improvement, including less pain and increased mobility of stiffened joints.

The participants also drank the sulphur-rich water. MSM, a natural source of sulphur, is, of course, widely used by arthritis sufferers in the form of tablets and capsules, but these results suggest that it may also be worth applying MSM in a cream form over painful joints and tissues.

Sports Injuries

Athletes, bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts also frequently use MSM tablets or capsules to reduce the pain, soreness and inflammation associated with injuries, strains, cramped muscles and over-extended joints. Muscle soreness after a workout is a common problem, which MSM may be able to help.

At the International Preventive Medicine Clinic in Sao Paolo, Brazil, Efrain Olszewer, MD and his staff treat many sports-related sprains and tendinitis.

"Usually we have treated these injuries with DMSO (a precursor of MSM), which has always worked very well, but we find we get just as good results with MSM, which works without the DMSO odour (DMSO has an unpleasant sulfurous smell, while MSM has no odour at all”. Dr Oslzewer often gives his patients an MSM ointment to apply to the affected area.

"Sprained ankles, elbows, shoulders, tendon injuries and muscle soreness all respond excellently” he reported to Dr Jacob.

These results from the field of sport also suggest that applying MSM to the skin may be helpful for pain and swelling from arthritis and other medical conditions. Although it would always be advisable to take MSM by mouth as well, applying to the skin in addition may help the mineral reach the intended site more quickly


The effect of chondroitin is likely the result of a number of reactions including its anti-inflammatory activity. Chondroitin works together with Glucosamine to form the connective tissue cartilage and draw in fluids to help keep the joints lubricated.

Whereas glucosamine is essential for maintaining healthy cartilage by promoting its formation and repair, chondroitin is thought to attract fluid into the cartilage and enhances its elasticity. It is also purported to inhibit the enzymes that break-down cartilage.

A meta-analysis of 7 studies, with a total of 700 patients, all compared with placebo, and in which additional analgesic drugs could be used, showed that chondroitin sulphate had significantly improved benefit over placebo.

In all trials chondroitin sulphate resulted in a significant reduction of analgesic or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and this was much more significant than for placebo.

Improvements showed after two to four months, with even better improvement after six months. Interestingly, adverse effects were reported more frequently with placebo than with chondroitin.