Using DMSO for Pain Management

People are increasingly turning to DMSO to relieve the pain of sports injuries, arthritis, scrapes, burns and even herpes and cold sores. What is DMSO and how is it used for pain management?

DMSO is Dimethyl Sulfoxide, a by-product of the paper industry. It is commonly used as an anti-freeze and solvent by industry, but there are also a wide range of medical uses. It has been the subject of intense controversy since the FDA limited its approval to treating a single bladder condition called interstitial cystitis. The FDA found little evidence of its effectiveness for treating other conditions. Both the medical community in the USA and the FDA are concerned by the lack of rigorous research confirming the benefits and ensuring safe use. For this reason, sellers of DMSO in the USA must state that their product is for use as a solvent only.

Meanwhile, DMSO is used for a range of ailments in countries around the world including Canada, Great Britain and Germany. A clinical trial in Japan concluded that pharmaceutical grade high purity heiltropfen was helpful in relieving joint pain, improving range of motion and increasing grip strength (Japanese Rheumatism Association as cited on

DMSO has a remarkable capacity to penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream, and it can carry other substances with it into the bloodstream. DMSO itself is considered to be low in toxicity, however, any other toxins present can be potentially dangerous because it can transport other substances.

The most common use of DMSO is as a topical analgesic in a cream, gel or liquid. It is thought to reduce pain by blocking nerve fibers and has shown to be effective in clinical trials. It is also used to reduce swelling. Anecdotal evidence supports the view that DMSO relieves the pain of arthritis.

People testify that burns, cuts and sprains are relieved almost immediately when DMSO is applied and relief can last as long as 6 hours. Many also apply cream or gel to herpes at the first sign of an outbreak to prevent or minimize the intensity of the outbreak and speed up the healing process.

DMSO is great for treating symptoms, but it is not a cure as some will claim. For example, it will relieve tendinitis pain, but it will not cure it. It can prevent herpes outbreaks, but will not kill the herpes virus, and it will reduce the swelling and pain of arthritis, but cannot cure arthritis. This usual substance is helping many to manage pain, but further research is still needed to prove its efficacy to the FDA and medical community in the USA.

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