Alternative medicine offers arthritic patients a second chance when conventional therapy fails. Most patients are so eager for a cure, or at least relief from their misery, that they readily accept unproven remedies. Patients are overly hopeful and very anxious to report efficacy, which too often is exaggerated and difficult to reproduce in a clinical study. Two additions to the OTC (over-the-counter) marketplace are MSM (MethylSulfonylMethane) and SAM-e (S-AdenosylMethionine).
MSM is found naturally in a variety of fruits, vegetables and grains. Patients with various musculoskeletal symptoms, including arthritis, who take MSM report relief of pain and stiffness and reduced swelling and inflammation. Reports such as these, which come from patients themselves, are referred to as testimonials or anecdotal evidence.
One randomized, controlled trial published in Osteoarthritis & Cartilage demonstrated that MSM supplements could decrease pain and disability in patients with knee osteoarthritis.
SAM-e has been reported by the Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology to reduce disease activity, pain, and morning stiffness in patients with fibromyalgia. Additional clinical trials have focused on SAMe- and osteoarthritis. In one of these trials, researchers concluded SAM-e was slower to act, but over time was as effective as Celebrex for the management of knee osteoarthritis.
Dietary supplements, such as MSM and SAM-e, are touted as beneficial for certain conditions -- but you should look to clinical trials, and less so to testimonials, for evidence that supports those claims.
Interview with rheumatologist Raymond Federman, M.D.
Osteoarthritis & Cartilage. 2006 Mar;14(3):286-94.