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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

MSM and Performance Athletes

Came across this article by Dr. Klein.  Spells out some basic principles on
neural reflexes and pain and performance. Added a few things to the piece in
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The Spinal Withdrawal Reflex and Athletic Performance

While the principal focus of athletic training has been placed, traditionally,
on improvement in strength and enhanced flexibility, measurable degradation in
actual performance results from involuntary, protective mechanisms ‘hard-wired’
into our nervous system.

The Spinal Withdrawal Reflex (SWR) is one such protective mechanism that robs
the athlete of what could be the winning difference or competitive edge.

Sometimes known as the nociceptive spinal reflex, the SWR protects the body from
self inflicted damage. Stretch, pressure, or pain receptors are triggered, and a
signal follows the sensory nervous system to the spinal cord. Processed in the
Dorsal Horn, a reflex signal is then sent back to the same limb or region of the
body accomplishing a ‘shut down’ of the offending muscle or muscle groups.

One example might be a tear in the rotator cuff of the shoulder. As the athlete
reaches with the arm, a pain signal from the damaged shoulder ligament travels
to the spinal cord causing a reflex ‘withdrawal’ of the shoulder muscles.
Because of the SWR, and due to the protective nature of the reflex, the shoulder
muscles are never allowed by this body to operate at full capacity,. The net
effect is decreased range of motion and a measurable decrease in strength. This
decrease is estimated to be between 1-4% of optimum performance.

Important to the athlete is that the decrease in range of motion, strength and
flexibility can be reduced or eliminated by decreasing the pain modulator in the
damaged tissue. That is, modulating the pain receptor can measurably and
significantly improve performance and recovery. This must be accomplished
without increasing the likelihood of re-injury. Medicines that ‘numb’ the pain
receptor increase the likelihood of re-injury by reducing the pain signals that
result from tissue damage. Local anesthetics and counter-stimulants fall into
this category.

While it is critical for full recovery, to insure that the injury has proper
time to heal, it is also vitally important that the rehabilitation process
allows for full extension and performance of the injured area. Too many times
the physical therapy recovery is inhibited by the discomfort of the person going
through their exercises. We must make certain that the individuals in recovery
are “pushed” to their safe limits in order to guarantee they return at optimum
effectiveness. Ironically, the more strenuous the safe management of the
recovery process, the quicker we can usually expect a return to activity. This
time factor can be critical regardless of whether you run a dojo or are

The pain receptor can, however, be safely modulated with resulting improvement
in strength and flexibility using anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant topical
medications such as a high-concentration methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) containing

In summary, the performance-robbing qualities of the spinal withdrawal reflex
can be reduced, with high concentration transdermal MSM, thereby improving
flexibility, range of motion and muscular strength. Improvement by as little as
2-5% in strength, reach and range of motion could make the difference between
winning and losing. It has been said that at the professional level in most
sports the difference between winning and losing is usually around a 1%
difference in performance. Low concentration MSM containing salves, such as
Tiger Balm® are somewhat beneficial where newer products that contain high
concentrations of MSM, such as Kink Ease® provide much more rapid and dramatic

[Taking MSM orally or topically is beneficial. NSAIDs as well as SAMe, Vitamin C
and Zn for tissue repair, Boswellia serrata as an anti-inflammatory, Turmeric,
and L-Proline are all beneficial. These are found in Joint Support
( Also MSM can be
compounded in a high potency topical cream by a compounding pharmacy under the
direction of an MD/DO. Oral MSM (
can be ordered from sites such as this.]

Source: David Stephen Klein, MD, FACA, FACPM
Pain Center of Orlando, Inc.

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