Sulfur Health for Chronic Pain: Back, Neck, and Muscle

Sulfur is a mineral found naturally within our bodies, as well as fruits, vegetables, milk, and animal products. But, many people may not get enough sulfur in their diets, especially as they age, which can have many health detriments. Sulfur is used for many processes in the body, including helping proteins hold their shape – without this, the proteins may lose their functions.

Sulfur can be supplemented in the body in a form known as methylsulfonylmethane, also known as MSM. This is an organic form of sulfur that can be found in foods we eat, such as raw, unprocessed milk, or you can take it as a supplement.

While studies are lacking in the use of MSM for many health conditions, some studies have been undertaken which support the use of MSM to help with chronic pain. According to the Arthritis Foundation, researchers performed a pilot study in 2006 which supported using MSM for knee osteoarthritis. The study group included 50 men and women taking 6,000 mg of MSM daily, which improved pain symptoms and increased their physical function without side effects.

In fact, MSM seems to be largely without side effects making it an ideal supplement to take. Some people experience gastrointestinal (GI) side effects, such as diarrhea. Sulfur supplementation can also lead to increased sun sensitivity. People who are sensitive to sulfa drugs may be more at risk for problems related to taking sulfur.

Sulfur can help the body because it is used to form proteins as well as connective tissue. Without enough sulfur, the body’s connective tissues, which includes muscles, ligaments, and tendons, can become weaker.

MSM is also helpful with chronic pain as an analgesic. It slows or decreases nerve impulses that transmit pain responses. This benefit may make it ideal for people who are sensitive to certain pain relievers to help control chronic pain, such as neck and back injuries.

Sulfur may also be beneficial externally. Dimethyl sulfoxide, or DMSO, is commonly used as an external product that may reduce inflammation and swelling in joints, which is commonly associated with painful joint conditions like arthritis.

Sulfur baths have also been used for pain relief for thousands of years, such as in locations as the Dead Sea. Known as balneotherapy, studies have supported using these mud baths and soaks to help with arthritic conditions. People in the studies had less morning stiffness, as well as less swelling and pain.

A natural health expert, Dr. Joseph Mercola, points out the many benefits of sulfur. Because so much sulfur is contained within our connective tissues, a lack of it may be connected to decreasing elasticity, which can lead to stiff muscles and joint pain. Cartilage may also become damaged in cases of sulfur deprivation, which can further affect the joints.

The amount of sulfur needed for the body is not currently known, although younger people tend to intake adequate quantities in their diet. People not getting enough from the foods they eat may benefit from sulfur supplementation with MSM. In addition to helping with chronic pain, using MSM can improve the quality of blood sugar regulation and energy, a variety of benefits that is only beginning to be explored.