Personal Stories
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

Following his win as "Best Actor in a Supporting Role" for his work in the movie "Affliction", veteran actor James Coburn, 70, spoke of overcoming a 15-year battle with rheumatoid arthritis when he was interviewed backstage at the Oscars in March (1999). The arthritis community was stirred by claims Coburn made and people clamored to learn about the treatment he mentioned.

Celebrities naturally command more attention than non-celebrities. It is not surprising that when James Coburn claimed he was able "to get to the root of the problem", people listened. As we examine the treatment plan Coburn talked about, let us responsibly review important considerations with regard to choosing a treatment plan.

James Coburn's Claim

As reported in USA Today and Entertainment Weekly, James Coburn described a period of ten years when movement caused relentless pain and standing was "really troublesome". In 1990, Coburn could barely walk because of rheumatoid arthritis and it impacted his work as an actor. He was forced to put his career on hold. Coburn was unhappy with the medical establishment and believing they could not solve his problem, he stopped seeing doctors. After concluding in his own mind that doctors just want to keep patients on drugs and not cure the problem, he took matters into his own hands.

Coburn focused on a treatment plan which combined deep tissue massage, electromagnetic treatments, and MSM which he insisted "really, really does the job". Coburn reportedly used the word "cured" in his statements.

What Is MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane)?

MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is a naturally occurring nutrient found in:

  •    - plants
  •    - meats
  •    - dairy products
  •    - fruits and vegetables

MSM is therefore found in the normal human diet. It is an odorless, tasteless, white water soluble, crystalline solid in its purified form.

Does MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) Help Arthritis?

Some research has suggested that a minimum concentration of MSM is required in the body to maintain normal function and structure. Scientists do not yet know the exact functions of MSM in the body. Assertions being made regarding MSM as a treatment for an array of illnesses, including arthritis, have not been substantiated with clinical research.

There are no recommended dietary intake levels established for sulfur. Most Western diets are high in protein so it is unlikely that a deficiency of sulfur exists in the diet of most people.

MSM Study Results

In a small study of just 16 patients, 80% of those taking 2,250 mg. of Lignisul (active ingredient is MSM) daily for six weeks reported an 82% improvement in pain relief compared to only 18% improvement in people receiving placebo. There is relatively little published research on MSM, however, and though some believe it to have a scientific basis, testimonials are certainly not enough to proclaim it as the cure for arthritis.


It is not in a patient's best interest to stop current treatments in order to try a new treatment based solely on testimonials.

Nutritional supplements and alternative treatments are not required to undergo rigorous scientific testing as are FDA-approved medications. A patient should not add a nutritional supplement to their treatment regimen without first consulting their physician.

There is no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis. There are many treatment options available to relieve symptoms and hopefully slow progression of the disease but the word "cure" is seriously misleading.