MSM vs Glucosamine: Which is Better for Joint Health?

MSM vs Glucosamine

TL; DR MSM vs Glucosamine Summary:

Serious joint pain can be debilitating and it’s no wonder that people are looking for supplements that might help. Two of the popular supplements are glucosamine and MSM.

Glucosamine is a naturally-occurring substance found in animal tissue and cartilage. It has been proven by some studies to help relieve joint pain, but others have found no effect from the supplement. A lot of people think that MSM is more effective because it is a pure form of sulfur that aids in the production of collagen, a protein important for healthy joints.

Some people might get more benefits from MSM creams, while others might experience deeper relief from glucosamine. The best option is to use both. The same story is with MSM and glucosamine supplements. Since each one has its own unique benefits, you will want to combine them both to get the greatest effect.

What is MSM?

MSM is short for methylsulfonylmethane. [1] It is a natural organic sulfur compound found in plants such as garlic, onions, leeks and lettuce. MSM is also found in some foods like cereal grains, fruit and vegetables. You’ll often see people use MSM supplements to provide antioxidants, promote joint health and repair cartilage, maintain healthy hair and nails, and support wound healing. But how many of these are actually backed by science? The answer: quite a few!

Some of the studied benefits of using MSM are supporting healthy skin, hair, and joints. It also works to relieve pain by reducing the amount of joint inflammation.

MSM is used as a topical treatment for conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis. It is also used for pain relief symptoms of arthritis, fibromyalgia and lower back pain.

How does MSM work for joint pain and flexibility?

The mechanisms of action are quite complicated. Essentially, MSM may reduce joint pain and help maintain the flexibility of joints by providing support for the connective tissue in your body.

What is Glucosamine?

Glucosamine is a supplement that is used to maintain joint health. Glucosamine can also be taken by patients with osteoarthritis to help decrease pain and inflammation. It has been shown to reduce joint discomfort and improve function in people with mild-to-moderate symptoms of osteoarthritis.

  • Glucosamine is a component of glycosaminoglycans, which are proteins that form the body’s connective tissues. In other words, glucosamine is a component of cartilage and in many cases, it can reduce your arthritis pain that is caused by inflammation.

The way glucosamine works is by interfering with the TNF-alpha, which is a group of proteins that are known to cause inflammation. Glucosamine also affects other inflammatory enzymes such as NF-kB, COX-2 and PGE-2. [2, 3]

Another way that glucosamine works is by affecting the synthesis of some enzymes in cells, such as in cartilage cells and other connective tissue cells. This leads to reduced chronic inflammation, as well as lessened production of some natural substances (known as cytokines) that play a role in pain management in the short term. [4]

Differences between MSM and Glucosamine

MSM is derived from the word methylsulfonylmethane and has a variety of benefits.

Glucosamine is a natural compound that comes from the shells of crustaceans. It is more common in supplements for joint health and can be found in the human body.

The two most significant differences between MSM and glucosamine are how they are made and where they can be found in the body. In terms of benefits, both can give you improved joint health and flexibility when supplemented daily.

So, Which is Better for Joint Health?

Glucosamine is a supplement that contains compounds that are similar to components of cartilage. MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is a nutrient found in many foods, including eggs, meat, legumes, and fish.

  • Some people use MSM instead of glucosamine because it has more sulfur than glucosamine. The sulfur content in these supplements makes them better for joints because it helps to maintain healthy connective tissues which support cartilage and other tissues in the body.

The results of some studies have shown that MSM can be just as effective – sometimes even more effective – as glucosamine at helping relieve pain from arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Ideally, you will want to combine glucosamine and MSM to get the best of both worlds in terms of their benefits for your joint function.

Further Reading:


  1. 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.
  2. Scotto d’Abusco A, Cicione C, Calamia V, Negri R, Giordano C, Grigolo B, Politi L, Scandurra R. Glucosamine and its N-acetyl-phenylalanine derivative prevent TNF-alpha-induced transcriptional activation in human chondrocytes. Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2007 Nov-Dec;25(6):847-52. PMID: 18173918.
  3. Kapoor M, Mineau F, Fahmi H, Pelletier JP, Martel-Pelletier J. Glucosamine sulfate reduces prostaglandin E(2) production in osteoarthritic chondrocytes through inhibition of microsomal PGE synthase-1. J Rheumatol. 2012 Mar;39(3):635-44. doi: 10.3899/jrheum.110621. Epub 2011 Nov 15. PMID: 22089456.
  4. Kim JA, Ahn BN, Kong CS, Kim SK. Anti-inflammatory action of sulfated glucosamine on cytokine regulation in LPS-activated PMA-differentiated THP-1 macrophages. Inflamm Res. 2011 Dec;60(12):1131-8. doi: 10.1007/s00011-011-0377-7. Epub 2011 Aug 30. PMID: 21877189.

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