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Effects of MSM on exercise-induced muscle and joint pain: a pilot study


Participants in organized running commonly experience muscle and joint pain while training for and competing in distance events. Many runners report pain as a major influence on changes or breaks in training regimens, and as a common deterrent for returning to exercise after a break. Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a sulfur-based nutritional supplement shown through several clinical trials to be effective in reducing pain associated with osteoarthritis, and to exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. To further investigate the role of MSM in pain management, this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluated the effects of MSM supplementation on exercise-induced muscle and joint pain.


Twenty-two healthy females (n = 17) and males (n = 5) (33.7 ± 6.9 yrs.) were recruited from the 2014 Portland Half-Marathon registrant pool. Participants were randomized to take either MSM (OptiMSM®) (n = 11), or a placebo (n = 11) at 3g/day for 21 days prior to the race and two days after (23 total). Pain was recorded using a 100 mm Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) for both muscle pain (MP) and joint pain (JP) on a single questionnaire. Participants completed the questionnaire at five time points. Baseline levels (T0) were recorded approximately one month prior to the race. Post-race pain levels were recorded at 15 minutes (T1), 90 minutes (T2), 1 Day (T3), and 2 days (T4) after race finish. Data were analyzed using linear mixed models controlled for baseline, with time point as a repeated factor. Simple contrasts compared post-race time points to baseline, and Student's t-tests assessed between-group time point comparisons.


Half-marathon completion resulted in significant time effects for increased pain in both MP (p < 0.001) and JP (p < 0.001). Mean MP at T0 (14.7mm) significantly increased at T1 (38.4mm; p < 0.001), T2 (33.5mm; p = 0.001), and T3 (36.3mm; p = 0.001), and fell to non-significant levels at T4 (20.9mm; p = 0.330). Mean JP at T0 (8.4mm) significantly increased at T1 (33.5mm; p < 0.001), T2 (31.5mm; p < 0.001), and T3 (24.8mm; p = 0.004), and fell to non-significant levels at T4 (16.1 mm; p = 0.198). The results showed a trend of lower pain levels in the MSM group. However, time-by-treatment effects did not reach significance in either MP or JP. Compared to placebo, MSM supplementation resulted in nearly significantly lower MP at T1 (MSM = 27.3mm vs. placebo = 49.8mm, p = 0.063), and lower MP at T2 (27.1mm vs. 40.0mm; p = 0.300), and T3 (30.0mm vs. 41.9mm; p = 0.306). Similar results were seen for JP at T1 (24.2mm vs. 42.4mm; p = 0.156), T2 (22.7mm vs 39.3mm; p = 0.204), and T3 (15.4mm vs. 32.2mm; p = 0.152).


Exercise-induced muscle pain and joint pain increase within 15 minutes of completing a half-marathon, continue through the following day, and diminish approximately two days post-race. Three weeks of MSM supplementation at 3g/day attenuated post-exercise muscle and joint pain at clinically significant levels compared to placebo. However, the pain reductions did not reach statistical significance, warranting further research on MSM and post-exercise pain among larger samples.


Eric D Withee is employed part-time at Bergstrom Nutrition (Vancouver, WA), manufacturers of MSM (OptiMSM™).

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Correspondence to Eric D Withee.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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Withee, E.D., Tippens, K.M., Dehen, R. et al. Effects of MSM on exercise-induced muscle and joint pain: a pilot study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 12 (Suppl 1), P8 (2015).

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