What do you know about DMSO? This chemical solvent, dimethyl sulfoxide, was discovered more than 150 years ago. By the mid to late 1960s, people were experimenting with potential medical applications. It has a reputation for fighting pain, and the FDA has approved its use to alleviate the excruciating pain of interstitial cystitis. However, many people promoting the use of this compound suggest that it should be applied topically–as it is on horses–to ease joint pain and inflammation. It is related to MSM, methylsulfonylmethane, which has also been promoted against arthritis pain. The evidence on both compounds is inconclusive, but at least one reader is enthusiastic.
Will DMSO Overcome Knee Pain?
Q. I have controlled my knee pain and other aches by applying DMSO liquid. It is available by prescription or at your local feed store. (It is used on horses’ legs.)
A. DMSO is useful in many diverse applications. It is easily absorbed through the skin and has been used to increase transdermal absorption of other drugs.
Are There Clinical Trials?
Clinical trials are hard to conduct because many people report a garlic-like taste and odor. As a result, a placebo for double-blind studies is challenging. MSM is often taken by mouth, making placebo-controlled trials somewhat more feasible. Scientists found evidence that this sulfur-containing substance can ease knee osteoarthritis (BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, June 27, 2011). However, another study found no clear benefit (U.S. Army Medical Department Journal, Oct-Dec. 2017).
A review of animal and human research concluded that DMSO may have some utility in the treatment of arthritis, but better clinical trials are essential (PLoS One, March 31, 2016). In vitro, the compound has anti-inflammatory activity, but that doesn’t establish its clinical utility (Molecules, Nov. 10, 2017).
We would discourage people from buying DMSO veterinary products. Prescription DMSO is available as Rimso-50 for interstitial cystitis. It is pricey, though. A 50 ml bottle is over $600.