MSM Supplement: A Review

MSMMSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is an organic sulfur-containing compound that is meant to help with pain in the tendons, ligaments and muscles.

Dr Axe outlines six benefits of taking MSM, including joint pain, digestive problems and muscle pain and spasms (a biggie for me): “Research suggests that MSM can act like a natural analgesic, helping prevent and treat muscle aches and pains, throbbing and swelling while improving range of motion and mobility.”

The article goes on to state that, “MSM also restores the flexibility and permeability of cell walls within muscles, which means nutrients can pass through the tissues more easily, facilitating repair work faster and removing lactic acid, which causes that “burning feeling” following exercise.” This is great for people with Fibromyalgia, who often feel greater post-exercise pain – I often get severe pain in my lower body for up to three days post exercise, if I have overdone it.

An article on the Shawn Stevenson Health Show website includes detoxification and increasing energy as other benefits of MSM:

“Digestion is the biggest energy requirement of the body (Approximately 70-80% of your energy is spent on digestion each day). MSM increases the absorption of nutrients so that the energy expenditure on digestion is vastly reduced.” Which is good news for a person like me who doesn’t tend to take the nutrients from food efficiently, using iron as an example, despite a healthy level of iron rich foods I cannot keep my iron levels up without regular injections. Also, any efficiency in energy is a bonus for people with limited energy levels.

MSM and Me

I began taking MSM in July as this was when I began to suspect the pain in my neck was actually Myofacial Pain Syndrome – painful, severe trigger points that recur no matter the treatment. Trigger points are usually considered separate to Fibromyalgia but there are some doctors who believe them to be part of it (like Dr Liptan).

After a Google search for potential side effects, potential benefits and checking any interactions with my current medicines (amitriptyline and low dose naltrexone) – I decided to try it.

It took about six weeks to build up in my system. At this point I noticed a slight reduction in pain, perhaps one pain point on average in my neck, which is actually a big deal for me. This helped reduce the number of severe headaches and I didn’t have any other pain relief for several weeks.

I began with tablets, they were big! I had to take one tablet three times a day, and it was difficult swallowing them. So when I finished the bottle, I ordered a powdered version. During the wait the symptoms returned. It took another few weeks to feel the benefit of the powder. It is much less of a burden to take the powder, half a teaspoon dissolved in a cup of water (which I skull) is really easy for me.

A minor medical event, separate to the Fibromyalgia occurred in August which set me back. But I am going to keep the low dose naltrexone and MSM going for the year’s experiment and I have just added moringa powder (which I will report on later) – moringa is a good source of protein and amino acids, as well as iron and magnesium which is said to work well with the MSM.

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4 Lessons I have Learnt While Living With Fibromyalgia

Lessons I have LearntAfter more than a decade fighting Fibromyalgia, I couldn’t imagine that the last two years could bring as much learning as it has.

I have stepped up the fight. I am trying Low-Dose Naltrexone and an MSM supplement at the moment. I am using yoga as therapy (targeted poses to keep my body moving). I am devouring research and books and articles about fighting the symptoms and the illness.

A large school of thought in the cause of Fibromyalgia, is that it is caused by underlying issues that need to be resolved. For example thyroid issues, Candida, viral infections, allergies etc.

Lesson one: Don’t be surprised, or discouraged if one avenue of potential healing doesn’t produce results.

Many Fibromyalgia bloggers/writers/doctors blame Candida overload for Fibromyalgia problems. They recommend cutting dairy and sugar and gluten and taking varying supplements. There are entire articles devoted to clearing Candida. Well, I have zero Candida in my system at the moment and my neck has been worse and the fatigue has been higher.

I also have “optimal” results in the usual blood tests (thyroid, iron, antibodies etc). All worth checking and noting that “normal” does not always mean “optimal”.

I don’t give up, I store this in my “don’t worry about it” column and move on.

Lesson two: Fibromyalgia is a massive undertaking of trial and error, which feeds into lesson three: you have to do the work yourself.

I have had precisely one doctor who is willing to listen to me, work with me and trial things with me in the 15 plus years I’ve been dealing with chronic pain. That Dr still doesn’t have a lot of avenues to offer me, but he is willing to let me trial things I research.

I turned up with research papers prepared to be persuasive about a trial of Low -Dose Naltrexone, he agreed immediately.

I have tried a multitude of things to fight Fibromyalgia. Physical therapies like osteopathy, chiropractic, massage and physiotherapy (neck traction and acupuncture needles in trigger points help me). Supplements like MSM, magnesium, multivitamins, iron, olive leaf extract, probiotics and a truckload more I can’t remember! (A helpful note here, using powders dissolved in water seems to absorb better than tablets for me).

Yoga, walking, stretching and swimming are helpful exercises that I enjoy. I have to modify for my neck and knees though. There’s also a clearly defined line that I must keep to, 25 mins of walking is enough, less causes pain in the lower body and more causes pain also!

Avoiding allergenic foods specific to me (bananas and dairy are occasional foods, corn and wheat are once per day foods according to my test). This was the one good thing that came out of hundreds of dollars spent on a naturopath. I trialed gluten-free eating a couple of years ago and found no effects while off or adding them back in. However, I do prefer non-glutenous grains like quinoa and millet as they have extra nutrients too.

There is a mind-body component. Meditation simultaneously helps me rest (I cannot nap) and teaches my central nervous system to calm down. Gratitude practice keeps me looking for the silver lining. Prayer helps sustain my hope (and hope is crucial, without that I’m done for). Colouring is calming and enjoyable. Reading is my favourite hobby and doesn’t require physical activity. You need hobbies and you have a right to enjoy these even with a limited energy envelope.

Almost every time I read a book written by a Fibromyalgia doctor, I have found that I have made my way to an approximation of their protocols myself.

This is all by time consuming, expensive, roller coaster of emotions, trial and error.

Lesson four is that you can do All The Things and still have Fibromyalgia.

Clearly I do a lot to manage my health as best as I can. I have learnt a lot and do a lot, daily. But I still struggle everyday with these symptoms. Mostly my neck and sleep. However, until a doctor helps me with my neck, my quality of life and my sleep will not improve. 

I have come a long way since I was struggling through the day, so sore I wondered how my body was functioning, so exhausted I was nauseas most of the day and only managed by holding on to the glimmer of hope that getting enough work experience would mean I could earn enough per hour to reduce my work hours. But there is more to go until I am healed and I fight on.

Low Dose Naltrexone: Update 16 Weeks

My major experiment post- baby is Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN), you can read about the beginning of my experiment here.

Varying information will agree on anything between 8 weeks and one year to experience the full effects of LDN. And a dose of between 3 and 4.5mg depending on the illness.

At 15 weeks into the experiment, after six months of sleep deprivation from the baby on a grand scale (read: wake ups of between 2-10 times a night), I had a flare up. My neck was so sore I was extremely nauseas and had a severe headache for days. The doctor I saw told me it was my C3 and C4 vertebra that were causing me trouble. The pain was actually spasms. He suggested a muscle relaxant and slow release Brufen.

Feeling like I was taking a lot of pills, I skipped a dose of LDN for a night. A lot of people note needing to skip a night occasionally to clear the receptors as a way to increase effectiveness. There were no changes noted.

Two nights later I went on my first date with my husband since the baby. We had a glass of wine. I decided I’d better not take the LDN (full dose Naltrexone is for alcohol and drug withdrawal, it can cause vomiting when mixed).

The next day I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. The fatigue sky rocketed. I was at 6-7/10 levels, hardly functioning, needed two rests and craved sugar like mad.

Taking my 3mg dose as usual that night I went to sleep hoping to feel better when I woke.

I did feel a bit better! The fatigue was about 3/10 and the filmy fog on my brain had descended a level or two. My neck came down a point, that could be related or not.

This is proof to me that it’s making a difference. At 3-3.5mg LDN is helping my fatigue.

I patiently continue for my maximum benefit. One woman in an LDN group told me of feeling progressively better over a year to approximately 90% function at one year! It gives me such hope. So I shall continue on for my one year experiment.

Low Dose Naltrexone: An Experiment

There are three little letters that are causing a craze in the world of Fibromyalgia at the moment – LDN (low dose naltrexone). This is the last (for now) major experiment I can engage in.

Research has been showing promising results. Dr Jared Younger started with a tiny study and found positive results, approximately 65% of patients included experienced clinically significant results. He’s doing a bigger study this year.

How LDN works is well explained in this article, which includes many links to research.

It is meant to help with so many issues, including Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, gastrointestinal troubles and more.

If I could experience a 30% (this is considered clinically significant and therefore as success) decrease in pain and fatigue, my life would change! I could be a mama, a wife, do my work and have some form of a life outside that and not pay with such significant levels of pain, fatigue and other side effects of the Fibromyalgia.

I can only share research and what works or doesn’t work for me. We are all unique and react differently. If you’re interested in LDN then read the research/information and then discuss it with your doctor.

Key things I learnt:

  • It works best for me when taken at 9 (not earlier).
  • My main side effect was vivid, crazy dreams.
  • Titrating up 0.5mg at a time with four day gaps between increases, until 2.5mg when it was beneficial to wait a week or more.

I’ll update on this experiment when I’m closer to the four month mark – this is when most people I’ve read about in the LDN groups on Facebook find it shows the best effects.

Have you tried LDN? Any success?