DMSO: Pain Relief Without a Prescription?, by Cynthia J. Koelker, MD

A reader of SurvivalBlog wrote to ask whether dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) is safe and effective for use in humans. The chemical is well-known in veterinary circles for its soothing effect on swollen, inflamed equine (horse) muscles.  But would it have the same effect on people? 

Unrelieved pain is a great fear among survivalists and preppers.  Few have access to narcotics or anesthetics.  Wouldn’t be great if there were a readily available, safe and effective over-the-counter remedy?  That is the primary question with DMSO.

What is DMSO anyway?  The chemical dimethyl sulfoxide is a potent solvent, produced as a by-product of the wood pulp industry.  It is best known medically for its ability to penetrate the skin, and has been useful as a carrier to aid the absorption of other beneficial medications.  Therein lies one of the concerns:  if the skin is contaminated or the DMSO formulation is impure, unwanted chemicals may enter the body.  Therefore if you are going to use DMSO as a topical preparation, make sure you use medical grade rather than industrial grade DMSO.

Whether DMSO works as a topical pain reliever is controversial.  The “party line” of the medical establishment is that it is probably NOT effective.  One study (in the journal Pain. 2009; 143(3):238-45) concluded that topical DMSO was no more effective than placebo in relieving symptoms of chronic knee osteoarthritis.  However, such a study does not answer the question completely. Did the DMSO penetrate inside the joint capsule, to the actual source of pain?  A study on the knee cannot answer the question as to whether DMSO is effective for muscular pain, or perhaps acute joint pain caused by strain or overuse.  In 2008 a systematic review of DMSO use in osteoarthritis (Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2008; 16(11):1277-88) concluded there is insufficient evidence either way to decide whether it is beneficial.

This raises another point:  pain is not simply one thing.  Joint pain and muscle pain are not the same.  Acute pain is different than chronic pain.  Traumatic bone pain is different from cancer pain.  Neuropathic pain is not the same as primary muscle pain.  Bladder pain is different than headache pain. 
DMSO has been used effectively for certain types of pain.  Currently it is only officially FDA-approved for discomfort or pain associated with interstitial cystitis, a chronic condition of the bladder causing pelvic pain and/or urinary symptoms.  A small amount of DMSO is instilled into the bladder via a catheter, where it is left in place for 10-15 minutes, then emptied.  This process is repeated every week or two for a few months, and most patients experience some relief of pain.  DMSO is thought to work by reducing inflammation and possibly decreasing bladder muscle contractions. 

If DMSO can work in the bladder, might it not be effective elsewhere?  One of the worst pain syndromes is cancer-related pain.  DMSO (plus sodium bicarbonate) has been used as IV therapy for patients with refractory metastatic cancer pain unresponsive to other treatments with encouraging results [J Pain Palliat Care Pharmacother. 2011; 25(1 and 4)]. 

So where does this leave us?  Doctors don’t really know.  I’ve had patients who have sworn DMSO is effective.  These have been younger patients with acute injuries or inflammation; such patients are prone to conditions akin to the acute injuries active horses might suffer.  Treating a young injured race horse is likely to yield better results than treating a worn-out work horse. 
Physicians prefer to have strong proof for what we advise, though that is often lacking.  Regarding DMSO, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center concludes, “Most of the clinical studies done on DMSO were published in the 1980s and early 1990s. Reliable data to verify its purported uses are limited.”

Regarding safety, the concerns are acute and long-term side-effects.  Any use of DMSO is likely to yield either bad breath or a garlic-like taste in the mouth or similar odor on the skin.  Rashes and dry skin are common with topical use.  Allergic reactions are possible as well.  Those using the product long-term may suffer kidney or liver damage and ideally would undergo blood testing every 6 months (a difficult proposition at TEOTWAWKI). 
The MSDS sheet lists a multitude of concerns (but no more than other drugs we use every day, including aspirin).  

My own conclusions are these:
1.       DMSO probably does work for certain conditions which have not been well-identified, but may be related to acute injury or overwork rather than chronic inflammation.
2.       It is reasonably safe to use medical-grade DMSO topically on an intermittent basis. 
3.       Patients who already have liver or kidney damage or who are pregnant or nursing should not use DMSO.
4.       We need more studies to prove which ailments DMSO is best used for.  Unfortunately, those studies are unlikely to be performed due to lack of funding.
5.       Using industrial-grade DMSO can be dangerous and result in unwanted poisoning with unidentified products.
6.       DMSO is probably no more effective than OTC NSAIDs (aspirin or willow bark, ibuprofen, naproxen) but may provide an alternative, especially for patients intolerant of these meds.  
7.       All users should be warned about the garlic-onion-oyster odor [or taste] they will experience.
8.       Doctors don’t know everything, but we err on the side of caution.

JWR Adds: Readers are further warned to store DMSO only in containers with tight-fitting lids that are vapor tight, and to store their supply of 99.9% pure medical (or veterinary) grade DMSO well away from any toxic substances. The solvent’s amazing carrier properties are well-documented. Keep in mind that if you apply it to a sore muscle using your hands then any contaminants on your hands will be absorbed through the skin and enter your bloodstream. The speed with which this can occur can be astonishing. I once read about a man who washed his hands with a scented soap shortly before using DMSO. Then, less than a minute after applying the DMSO with his hands to his sore knees, he could taste the hand soap on his tongue, almost as if he had licked the bar of soap! Some drug addicts have reportedly used DMSO as a “soft” way to ingest drugs that require only small doses, such as PCP and Fentanyl. And though perhaps exaggerated in the frequency of occurrence in popular fiction, DMSO mixed with a powerful toxin such as saxitoxin has reportedly been used by foreign intelligence agencies for killing some political opponents of unpopular regimes.

Pat’s Product Review: Benchmade Adamas Folder

I still remember the very first Benchmade Knives folding knife I ever owned. I don’t remember which model it was, but I still remember at how “shocked” I was at the super high-quality of the knife. Without a doubt, it was every bit as well-made, if not, better made than custom folding knives I had seen. It continues to this day, Benchmade Knives are of the highest quality you’ll find. This comes as no accident, as I’ve toured the Benchmade factory a couple times, and I’ve seen what is involved in making their knives. To be sure, Benchmade even has a machine to make their own screws, believe it or not.
I had a sit-down with Les d’Asis, the owner of Benchmade some years ago – this was a great meeting. First thing you’ll notice about Less is that, he’s not a suit and tie type of guy – I really like that. Les takes knife making seriously, and it shows in his products, too. Last I heard, Benchmade was running two, full-time shifts, trying to keep up with supply and demand. And, they would run a third shift, if they already aren’t, if they could find enough QUALIFIED people to perform the tasks involved in knife making. Benchmade Knives are always in demand, and its not unusual for them to be out-of-stock, at any given time, on many of their models. Several of Benchmade’s knives are sold to the Department if Defense – they met the high standards required of the DOD, to be issued to our military personnel.
The knife under review today is the Adamas Model 275 folder and this is, without a doubt, the stoutest and strongest folding knife that Benchmade has come out with – bar none! Adamas is Latin for “diamond hard” or “invincible” – so the name aptly fits this new folder. If you are fortunate enough to live in a “free” state, the Adamas folder can also be had in an automatic version Model 2750.
I had to wait more than a month to get my sample – my contact, Alicia Hunt, who handles these things at Benchmade, is a great person to work with. If samples are available, she gets ’em right out to us.
The first thing I noticed when I opened the box the Adamas came in is, how stout this folder is – I like a lot of handle to hold onto on a knife, especially one that might be used for self-defense or survival use. The handle scales are desert tan, made out of lightly textured G10 handle scales, with stainless steel liners. There are lightening holes drilled in the handles, too, as well as a lanyard hole in the butt of the handle. Friction grooves are places in just the right spots on the top of the handle, as well as the butt – really nice, really nice! A sheath is included with this folder, and it is compatible with all military gear. I liked the handle shape, too – it fit my hand perfectly!
The blade is made out of super-tough D2, tool steel. This stuff is hard, real hard – it takes an edge and it holds it a long, long time. The only problem I’ve ever encountered with knives made out of D2 is that if the edge is properly applied to start with, they are hard to re-sharpen. Needless to say, Benchmade put a great grind on the edge of the Adamas. Rockwell hardness on the Adamas is 60-62, so you know the edge will last a good long time. The blade style is a drop-point, and is TiNi coated black, for a non-reflective finish. There is a dual thumb stud for quick opening, and I found I could also just flick the blade open, too. The Axis locking mechanism keeps the blade firmed locked open. Best thing about the Axis lock is that, over time, as the blade wears a little bit at the locking point, the Axis lock automatically adjust for this, and the blade stays firmly locked just as it was from the first day you opened the knife.
The pocket/clothing clip allows for deep-carry in the pocket, in the tip-up position, and it is reversible for right or left pocket carry, too. Overall length of the blade is 3.82″ and it’s about perfect if you ask me. I like a folder with a blade between 3.5″ and 4.0″ in length, and this one fits the ticket just fine in my book. Overall length of the Adamas in the open position is 8.70″ and weight is 7.68 oz – a tad on the heavy side for some folks, but when you see how stout this hummer is, you’ll appreciate the weight. Blade thickness is 0.160 and the handle thickness is 0.73″ – like I said – stout!
The Adamas was designed by Shane Sibert, who resides right here in my home state of Oregon, and this knife was designed to honor the courage and commitment exhibited by our fighting heroes. A portion of the sale of each Adamas will be donated to the Ranger Assistance Foundation, too. Sibert has been a custom knife maker since 1994, so he’s been around quite a while. 
I showed the Adamas to quite a few folks, and needless to say, the first thing they commented on was how stout the folder was – most really liked it, only one said it was too thick and heavy – we all have opinions on guns and knives! I really like the Axis locking mechanism not only for the way it locks a blade open, but for the already mentioned self-adjusting feature. I also like that the Axis lock can be releases from either side of the knife’s handle, too – makes it nice for southpaws, as well as us righties!
The Adamas can also be had with a partially serrated blade, as well as in a fixed blade version, which has a slightly longer blade, and skeletonized handle – that you can wrap with 550 paracord if you desire.
I’ve often said that if you want to see if a gun or knife will break, give it to a US Marine – they will give products a test and evaluation like you wouldn’t believe. I honestly believe that the Benchmade “Adamas” is US Marine-proof! If you manage to break this baby, you were probably trying to use the knife as a lever to lift a Hummer. As with all Benchmade knives, the Adamas comes with a lifetime warranty against materials and defects. Benchmade also has a lifesharp service policy – if you send a knife back to them, they will re-sharpen it for free – they only request a $5.00 fee to offset return shipping, and these days, that’s a bargain in my book.
I’ve been writing about Benchmade Knives, for probably close to 20-years now, and I’ve never had one pass through my hands that I didn’t like, or one that had any sort of defects. To be sure, I’ve had several prototypes that I did articles on, and not one of those babies had any problems, either…and if there is a problem, it usually shows-up in a prototype.
Quality never comes cheap, and the full retail price for the Adamas Model 275 is $195. Believe me, this knife is worth every penny – and then some. I wouldn’t hesitate spending more for this folder, if they were asking more for it. What didn’t I like about the Adamas? Nothing! This folder falls under “perfection” in my book for a self-defense or survival knife – it’s that good – honestly!
I could rant and rave all day long about the Adamas, but nothing is a substitute for getting one in your hands. Once you do get your hands on an Adamas 275 folder, you won’t want to put it down. So check the balance in your checking account before you pick-up this knife. You’re gonna want to buy it, on the spot.