Joint pain and MSM

Minor joint injuries sometimes occur in Aikido, unfortunately – just like in any physical activity. Your ukemi goes wrong, you zig when you should have zagged and you ding your wrist, elbow or shoulder. These injuries are usually more annoying than anything else, and most people recover from them fairly quickly.

(Note for beginners: safe practice is one of the key objectives at our dojo, and we train students to avoid injuries of any kind).

Some students who do have a nagging joint injury ask me what to do about it. The most important thing to do is to rest the joint until the immediate pain and swelling are gone. Icing is a big help. Don’t do anything to stress the joint until it has recovered. And afterwards, exercise it lightly with gentle stretching.

I also suggest that people try MSM.

Disclaimer: I am not a health practitioner or therapist of any kind. Nor do I particularly believe in herbal or patent remedies. But MSM is a different story.

I had a very bad knee injury at one point and a friend of mine who practised jujutsu asked me if I had tried MSM. He said that most of the people in his dojo used it. I had not tried it and was extremely sceptical. But I had nothing to lose, so I bought a bottle and started taking it.

Let me repeat that I wasn’t expecting anything whatsoever to happen.  I was immune to the placebo effect. Nevertheless, the improvement was noticeable and immediate. I have tried other remedies before and since, including shark’s cartilage and glucosamine, and I didn’t really notice any changes. But MSM is different.

I have recommended it to relatives, friends and students, and usually encountered the same scepticism I felt. However, the ones who tried it usually reported significant improvements in healing time.

This is all personal, anecdotal and unscientific. I have found the 1,000-mg gel caps to work the best (some of the tablets don’t seem to me to work at all). You’d have trouble overdosing on the stuff, so if you have a sprain, take it often.

Here are a few comments from a book called Knee Pain, the Self-Help Guide (Garrett and Reznik, New Harbinger Publications Inc., 2000) .

“Methyl-sulfonyl-methane is organic sulphur. It occurs naturally in the human body. MSM is also found in many foods.”

“MSM increases the flow of harmful substances out of the cells and prevents pressure buildup in the cells, which causes inflammation in the joints.”

“Some studies have indicated that MSM improves joint flexibility, reduces stiffness and swelling, improves circulation, reduces pain associated with arthritis, reduces scar tissue and breaks up the calcium deposits associated with arthritis.”

All I can say is that it reduced the pain and stiffness in my knee dramatically after a few days. The book cited above, by the way, is recommended for anyone with a knee injury. It’s a gold mine of information.