Chronic inflammation contributes to many painful conditions, including osteoarthritis and back pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such aspirin, ibuprofen and diclofenac work well because they block the enzymes that trigger both swelling and pain.
However while they are effective, unfortunately extreme complications, including gastric ulcers, bleeding, heart attacks and even deaths, are associated with their use. An alternative treatment with fewer side effects that also reduces the inflammatory response and thereby reduces pain is believed to be omega-3 essential fatty acids found in fish oil.
Fish oils offer a natural alternative to NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and diclofenac
There are natural alternatives to NSAIDs that have a similar mechanism - one of which is fish oils.
Fish oil can also ease the inflammation and pain caused by many chronic conditions. The dose used in the most convincing research is 2000mg to 4000mg of DHA + EPA daily (read labels carefully!). Although beneficial omega-3 fatty acids are available from other sources, experts say that fish oil has the best evidence.
Neurosurgical research using fish oil supplements for pain relief
A scientific study was undertaken in 2006 looking at the practice of using fish oils for pain relief in neurological surgery. Neurosurgery is the medical speciality concerned with the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of disorders which affect any portion of the nervous system.
From March to June 2004, 250 patients who had been seen by a neurosurgeon and were found to have non surgical neck or back pain were asked to take a total of 1200 mg per day of omega-3 essential fatty acids (EPA + DHA) found in fish oil supplements
Of the 250 patients, 125 returned the questionnaire at an average of 75 days on fish oil. 78% percent were taking 1200 mg and 22% were taking 2400 mg of essential fatty acids. 59% percent discontinued to take their prescription NSAID medications for pain. 60% stated that their overall pain was improved, and 60% stated that their joint pain had improved. 80% stated they were satisfied with their improvement, and 88% stated they would continue to take the fish oil. There were no significant side effects reported.
Omega-3 essential fatty acids are a a safer alternative to NSAIDs
The results mirror other controlled studies that compared ibuprofen and omega-3 essential fatty acids, demonstrating equivalent effect in reducing arthritic pain, further suggesting that Omega-3 fish oil supplements appear to be a safer alternative to NSAIDs for treatment of nonsurgical neck or back pain.
A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.