by: Sally Skurdahl, MPT
Most people have heard the term “inflammation” and associate this phenomenon with pain and injury. Inflammation is the human body’s reaction to injury or infection. This involves an influx of chemicals/ specific cells to the area which in turn may be reflected by swelling, redness, warmth, and /or pain or in some cases only pain may be felt with no visible changes. Failure to completely resolve an acute inflammatory response can lead to chronic inflammation, scarring, and
eventual loss of tissue function.
So what do we do to combat inflammation? One of the most common remedies is oral NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) which can be purchased over-the-counter. Common name brand versions are Advil, Aleve, Motrin, and Bayer. Unfortunately this group of anti-inflammatory drugs is commonly associated with gastro-intestinal distress, nausea, and even bleeding in the stomach.
Many of my patients choose to avoid medications all together or suffer from the unpleasant side effects of NSAIDs and are looking for a safer, more natural way to fight inflammation and therefore pain. One option is supplementing their diet with Omega 3 fatty acids. The past 10 years+ have provided ample research evidence of Omega-3’s anti-inflammatory properties. It is now known that resolvins and lipoxins derived from Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, -are active anti-inflammatory and proresolution mediators, acting in part by reducing neutrophil entry to the inflammation site and stimulating the uptake of apoptotic polymorphonuclear leukocytes by macrophages.
Two examples of such research include the following:
1) A meta-analysis of the analgesic effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation for inflammatory joint pain; Pain. 2007 May;129(1-2):210-23
The results suggest that omega-3 PUFAs are an attractive adjunctive treatment for joint pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and dysmenorrhea.
2) Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) as an anti-inflammatory; an alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for discogenic pain; Surg Neurol, 2006; 65(4)
The results that suggested the safety and effectiveness of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of non-surgical neck or back pain. Over half (60%) of the subjects reported an overall improvement in their pain and 59% reported discontinuing their NSAID with 80% continuing the fish oil supplementation beyond the study. Average dose for subjects was 1,200 mg/day.
In summary, there are safe and effective alternatives to NSAIDs out there and Omega-3 fatty acid (fish oil) supplementation has been shown in research to be useful to decrease pain and inflammation without side effects. It is recommended that the fish oil supplement be “purity guaranteed” and from a reputable company examples: Metagenics, Pharmax, or Biogenesis.
*Be sure to consult your physician first!
P.S. Healthiness Grows Happiness!