How to Use DMSO for Healing

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Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) is an extremely powerful solvent. It is able to penetrate the skin quickly and dissolve quickly through the body, causing the sensation of tasting garlic a few moments after topical application. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved DMSO for human treatment of anything other than urogenital disorders. However, veterinarians routinely use DMSO for joint and muscle injuries in horses and other domestic animals. (Reference 1)

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • DMSO
  • Rubber gloves
  • Application pad or sterile gauze

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    Treating Muscle and Joint Injuries

  1. 1

    Treat acute injuries appropriately. Muscle or joint strains should be treated immediately with compression and ice to prevent swelling. A typical ice/compression regimen is performed at least twice a day for about half an hour. Applying DMSO immediately can have the reverse effect--it will increase circulation, causing the injured area to become warm, and possibly result in worse swelling in the long run.

  2. 2

    Assess persistent swelling. If the injured area becomes swollen after applying ice and compresses, the injury will take a long time to heal unless the swelling can be reduced. Swelling is a response that stiffens an area to allow damaged muscles, tendons, ligaments and even bone to stay immobile during delicate healing process. However, swelling reduces circulation and this slows the healing process. Applying DMSO allows natural healing compounds (like corticosteroids) to be absorbed through low-circulation swelling and help heal the injury.

  3. 3

    Apply DMSO. DMSO is a liquid that usually comes in a bottle. Apply DMSO with sterile gauze. Use rubber gloves to avoid dosing yourself through the skin with the DMSO that you are using to treat the horse. Wet the gauze or application pad so it is saturated, but not dripping, with DMSO. Apply to the injury by wiping in strokes across and around the injured area.

    Test your "rubber" gloves before using them to apply DMSO. Some types of plastic gloves will dissolve quickly when exposed to DMSO--you don't want to have these plastics absorbing into your skin or the injured animal's skin. Use natural, thick rubber gloves to apply DMSO.

  4. 4

    Reapply DMSO. Repeat the application to the injured area once or twice a day. If the skin becomes irritated or flakes off, discontinue DMSO treatment. Some animals are not tolerant to DMSO.

  5. 5

    Apply DMSO as a vehicle for pharmaceuticals. DMSO helps fungicides, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs penetrate the skin and reach the internal sites of injury. Consult your veterinarian for advice on using DMSO with different drugs to help aid your animal's healing.

Tips and warnings

  • Have prominent injuries or injuries that affect the gait or stride of your horse checked by a veterinarian. Swelling can be a sign that permanent injury has occurred. Severe tendon and ligament injuries must be attended to before the injury heals improperly and becomes permanent.
  • Apply DMSO in addition to traditional countermeasures such as ice and compression; use DMSO in conjunction with pharmaceuticals and analgesics according to a veterinarian's instructions.
  • DMSO should not be used with brood mares or other breeding animals because it may cause birth defects. Do not apply DMSO over broken or blistered skin. Almost anything on the skin will be absorbed when using DMSO, so make sure the wound area is clean before applying DMSO. (Reference 3)

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