MSM and Glucosamine are both naturally occurring compounds that benefit joint health through similar biopathways, including:
- Reducing inflammation
- Supporting cartilage healing
- Reducing osteoarthritis symptoms such as knee pain
As we’ll see, MSM and Glucosamine may work synergistically at:
- Supporting glutathione activity
- Contributing to synovial fluid’s role in shock absorption and joint cushioning
- Protecting collagen from age-related degradation
How MSM Supplements Work
Methylsufonylmethane, better known as MSM is a sulfur compound found in every cell in your body. MSM can be found in plants and animals, but it can also be created in a lab.
Being a rich source of sulfur, it influences the growth of your skin, hair, and nails. It also positively affects joint health1, specifically in the following ways:
- MSM promotes collagen synthesis. This is crucial for maintaining connective tissue health and cell membrane fluidity.
- MSM supports a healthy immune response. Specifically, it inhibits an inflammatory protein NF-kb which is known to play a role in the destruction of joint tissue in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
- MSM may boost the master antioxidant glutathione. In doing so, it helps to increase antioxidant activity in your body, fighting off free radicals that contribute to joint inflammation and pain.
Beyond joint health, MSM also contributes to muscle healing and recovery by supporting the inflammation response and helping with oxidative stress during exhaustive exercise, reducing soreness the day after.
How Glucosamine Supplements Work
Glucosamine is an amino sugar naturally found in your joint tissues, specifically in your cartilage where joint-surrounding synovial fluid is. Synovial fluid is important as it cushions your joints, helping with shock absorption, lubrication, and nutrient and waste transport from joint tissues.
Glucosamine that is found in this fluid can be synthesised in a lab or harvested from hard outer shells of crustaceous animals like crabs and shrimps.
As we age, our bodies produce less and less glucosamine, which can lead to joint degradation. Supplementing glucosamine may enhance joint vitality by replenishing your body’s stores of this integral compound.
Glucosamine acts as a building block for glycosaminoglycans, or GAGs for short, which are a major part of joint cartillage. GAGs work to enhance formation and repair of cartilage as well as other tissues like collagen.
While glucosamine for joint health evidence is still inconclusive, it suggests that glucosamine mildly supports your joints by:
- Acting as a building block for connective tissues
- Contributing to the role of synovial fluid in cushioning joints
- Enhancing joint function through anti-inflammatory effects
You’ll find that many glucosamine supplements also contain chondroitin sulfate, which is a compound also found in joint cartilage that works synergistically with glucosamine.
*It’s important to note that while a lot of users report benefits from glucosamine supplementation, studies are mixed, with some papers suggesting its benefits might not be significant.2
Further Reading: Is MSM Good for The Brain?
MSM Helps With Mild Knee Pain and Overall Knee Pain
A 2024 study by Akifumi Toguchi and colleagues looked into the effects of MSM on knee pain. The researchers took 88 healthy Japanese people with mild knee pain and split them into two groups:
- The first group took 10 tablets of MSM daily for 12 weeks
- The second group took 10 placebo (lactose) tablets daily for 12 weeks
The goal of the study was to see if MSM could reduce knee pain, which was measured by the Japanese Knee Osteoarthritis Measure (JKOM). In addition, the researchers looked at the safety of MSM via physical exams, urine and blood tests, and interviews.
After 12 weeks, the study found significant improvement of knee pain in the MSM group compared to the placebo group. What’s more, the people from the MSM group experienced overall improved knee health. The conclusion was that “MSM oral consumption improved both knee and systemic health conditions in healthy participants who experienced mild pain in the knee joint.”3
Glucosamine Reduces Pain in Knee Osteoarthritis Patients
In this systematic review from August 2023, researchers evaluated safety and effectiveness of glucosamine based on 15 recent studies. They used The Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis (WOMAC) and Visual Analog Scale (VAS) to measure results.
Compared to a placebo, glucosamine significantly reduced global pain on the VAS index. The WOMAC scale confirmed that glucosamine improved stiffness, pain, and joint function, but not to the same extent.
The study found that there were no major side effects or drug interactions from 1500mg of glucosamine per day, concluding that “glucosamine is more effective than a placebo at reducing pain in knee osteoarthritis patients.”4
How do MSM and Glucosamine Feel?
It might take up to 6-8 weeks for you to have notable differences in joint pain and function from glucosamine and MSM supplementation, as these compounds may need time to build up in your tissues to exert an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect.
People typically report similar benefits from MSM and glucosamine, which include:
- Reduced joint aches
- Better mobility and flexibility
- Enhanced overall joint function and daily comfort
Your experience may vary. The best way to find out how glucosamine and MSM feel is to test them for yourself (ideally, both, for synergistic benefits).
MSM vs Glucosamine: Real World Uses
If you’re someone who exercises often, you may find MSM to be more beneficial as it is shown to help with muscle healing in addition to reducing joint inflammation. On the other hand, if you’re above 40, you may find glucosamine to work better as it assists in protecting and repairing your cartilage, supporting long-term joint health.
Glucosamine and MSM work best when combined together, especially alongside other studied joint health compounds like Boswellia Serrata and omega-3 fatty acids. This ensures you’re targeting joint health from multiple angles, including:
- Inflammation reduction
- Cartilage repair and healing
- Synovial fluid support
- Antioxidant bioactivity
- Protection from collagen degradation
Further Reading: Turmeric and MSM – Should You Take Them Together?
- Butawan M, Benjamin RL, Bloomer RJ. Methylsulfonylmethane: Applications and Safety of a Novel Dietary Supplement. Nutrients. 2017 Mar 16;9(3):290. doi: 10.3390/nu9030290. PMID: 28300758; PMCID: PMC5372953. ↩︎
- Henrotin Y, Mobasheri A, Marty M. Is there any scientific evidence for the use of glucosamine in the management of human osteoarthritis? Arthritis Res Ther. 2012 Jan 30;14(1):201. doi: 10.1186/ar3657. PMID: 22293240; PMCID: PMC3392795. ↩︎
- Toguchi A, Noguchi N, Kanno T, Yamada A. Methylsulfonylmethane Improves Knee Quality of Life in Participants with Mild Knee Pain: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2023 Jun 30;15(13):2995. doi: 10.3390/nu15132995. PMID: 37447322; PMCID: PMC10346176. ↩︎
- Vo NX, Le NNH, Chu TDP, Pham HL, Dinh KXA, Che UTT, Ngo TTT, Bui TT. Effectiveness and Safety of Glucosamine in Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review. Pharmacy (Basel). 2023 Jul 14;11(4):117. doi: 10.3390/pharmacy11040117. PMID: 37489348; PMCID: PMC10366893. ↩︎