Omega-3 & Pain Relief: Finding the Best Strategy

By Bo Martinsen, MD
1 month ago

According to the CDC, an estimated one in five Americans live with chronic pain (1). What’s worse is that many of these sufferers don’t believe that medical treatment will help, or worry that the treatment will create more undesirable side effects than the pain itself.

In fact, many painkillers and medications designed to reduce inflammation can cause serious side effects like gastrointestinal problems and addiction. But there is a natural anti-inflammatory agent that can also help manage pain – if we get the right dose and quality.

Omega-3 Fish Oil and Pain Relief

Scientists have been investigating the relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and pain relief since the 1980s (2). Over the decades, numerous studies have found that omega-3 supplements may help patients lower pain scores and reduce their need for pain-relieving medications.

As we continually see, the benefits of omega-3s are dose-dependent. To understand the kinds of doses needed to achieve results for chronic joint pain, let’s look at a few studies focusing on rheumatoid arthritis (RA):

Omega-3 Fish Oil & Rheumatoid Arthritis Research

A well-designed, double blind, placebo-controlled study from 2008 investigated the effect of consuming 10 capsules of cod liver oil every day. When taking 2200 mg of EPA/DHA, an astounding 65% of the patients significantly reduced their use of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) by more than 30%. The authors noted, however, that many participants withdrew early from the study because they did not like swallowing 10 capsules daily – and often experienced fishy burps and gastrointestinal problems (a common occurrence with fish oil capsules)(3).

A 2012 meta-analysis similarly concluded that giving RA patients at least 2700 mg of EPA/DHA per day for more than three months reduced patients’ need for NSAIDs (4).

In addition, a meta-analysis from 2017 also concluded that omega-3 supplements had therapeutic potential for reducing rheumatoid arthritis pain, with daily doses from 3000 to 6000 mg of omega-3s having the greatest effect (5). If using regular fish oil capsules, that dosage would be the same as swallowing between 10 to 20 capsules every day.

How Much EPA/DHA Do Typical Omega-3 Capsules Contain?

* Regular fish oil capsules typically only contain 300 mg of EPA/DHA, although the quality and dosages vary between products. The omega-3 content of salmon similarly varies depending on the species, cooking method, etc.


Omega-3s and Osteoarthritis

While there’s substantial evidence surrounding the benefits of omega-3s for rheumatoid arthritis, the research is more mixed when it comes to osteoarthritis. For instance, another 2017 meta-analysis reported that while there is generally a positive connection between omega-3 fish oils and reducing arthritis pain, the results did not reach statistical significance for osteoarthritis patients specifically (6).

Bioavailability & Compliance May Play A Role

It is possible, however, that some of the mixed results from osteoarthritis trials could be explained by bioavailability issues – or a lack of compliance.

For instance, a 2018 study found that having a lower omega-6 to omega-3 ratio was associated with less pain in adults with osteoarthritis (7). By measuring the participants’ omega-3 index levels (the amount of EPA and DHA fatty acids within the red blood cells), scientists in this study had more reliable data and were able to determine how much omega-3 was actually being absorbed.

Why Omega-3s Impact Pain

Even if the research surrounding osteoarthritis isn’t always clear, there are good scientific reasons for why omega-3s target chronic pain. Most notably, they have powerful anti-inflammatory effects and operate on similar biochemical pathways as over-the-counter painkillers (8, 9). Therefore, it’s not surprising that consistently taking adequate doses of omega-3s can have similar effects as NSAIDs.

Additionally, since full-spectrum omega-3s positively influence cell functioning and provide numerous fatty acids for our gut bacteria, they may be able to increase the benefits of certain medications (10) and/or reduce their side effects (e.g. ulcers) (11). Indeed, some scientists are exploring the potential use of omega-3s for combating the harms of opioid use (12, 13) – although clinical trials are still needed.

Liquid fish oils are often easier to swallow than multiple capsules – if the oil is fresh and does not have a fishy taste or smell.


An Effective Omega-3 Dose Is Crucial

In spite of the breadth of scientific evidence that omega-3 fish oil may help relieve chronic pain, most people never experience it. Why?

While fish oil’s pain relieving effects have been recognized for some time (14), very few people – including physicians – understand that sufficient doses are required for results. Therefore, patients often miss an opportunity to improve their quality of life because they are taking ineffective amounts.

In the studies above, the omega-3 fish oil dosages used to achieve pain-relieving results ranged between 2200-6000 mg of EPA/DHA daily. That would be the same as consuming between 8 to 20 regular fish oil capsules every day – or 1-2 vials of Omega Cure® Extra Strength.

Since most people find it hard to pop handfuls of capsules, switching to liquid fish oil can make it easier to swallow an effective omega-3 dose. That’s especially true if the liquid fish oil is fresh and doesn’t have a fishy taste or smell, like Omega Cure.

In addition to improving one’s omega-3 experience, freshness is also important for safety and efficacy reasons.

Omega Cure: The Easiest Way to Get Your Daily EPA/DHA

From acupuncture to vitamin D, physical therapy, and mindfulness meditation, there are numerous science-based, complementary therapies for pain management. Just like these other therapies, omega-3 fish oil is not fast acting – and it’s certainly not a silver bullet.

Based on our research and feedback, we’ve found that our customers typically experience the best effects when taking one to two vials of Omega Cure Extra Strength or Omega Restore for a minimum of 12 weeks. Since both products contain 3000 mg of EPA/DHA per vial, this protocol matches the dose and time period noted in the research studies above.

We firmly believe that millions of people could improve their quality of life by getting adequate doses of omega-3s every day. As the producers and purveyors of the freshest, full-spectrum omega-3 fish oil on the market, we look forward to helping you live your best life, with more comfort and ease.

An Effective Omega-3 Dose, Made Simple

Get 3000 mg EPA/DHA per serving.

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References:

1. Kuehn, B. (2018). Chronic Pain Prevalence. JAMA, 320(16). 1632.

2. Navarini, L., Afeltra, A., Gallo Afflitto, G., & Margiotta, D. (2017). Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Any Role in Rheumatoid Arthritis? Lipids in Health and Disease, 16(1), 197.

3. Galarraga, B., Ho, M., Youssef, H. M., et al. (2008). Cod Liver Oil (N-3 Fatty Acids) as an Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug Sparing Agent in Rheumatoid Arthritis. Rheumatology, 47(5), 665–669.

4. Lee, Y. H., Bae, S. C., Song, G. G. (2012). Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Meta-Analysis. Archives of Medical Research, 43(5), 356-362.

5. Abdulrazaq, M., Innes, J. K., Calder, P. C. (2017). Effect of ω-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids on Arthritic Pain: A Systematic Review. Nutrition, 39-40: 57-66.

6. Senftleber, N. K., Nielsen, S. M., Andersen, J. R., et al. (2017). Marine Oil Supplements for Arthritis Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Trials. Nutrients, 9(1), 42.

7. Sibille, K. T., King, C., Garrett, T. J., et al. (2018). Omega-6: Omega-3 PUFA Ratio, Pain, Functioning, and Distress in Adults With Knee Pain. The Clinical Journal of Pain, 34(2), 182–189.

8. Ye, J., & Ghosh, S. (2018). Omega-3 PUFA vs. NSAIDs for Preventing Cardiac Inflammation. Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine, 5, 146.

9. DiNicolantonio, J. J., O’Keefe, J. H. (2018). Importance of Maintaining a Low Omega–6/Omega–3 Ratio for Reducing Inflammation. Open Heart: BMJ, e000946.

10. Laino, C. H., Fonseca, C., Sterin-Speziale, N., Slobodianik, N., Reinés, A. (2010). Potentiation of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Antidepressant-Like Effects with Low Non-Antidepressant Doses of Fluoxetine and Mirtazapine. European Journal of Pharmacology, 648 (1 – 3),117 – 126.

11. Park, J. M., Han, Y. M., Jeong, M. et al. (2015). Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids as an Angelus Custos to Rescue Patients from NSAID-Induced Gastroduodenal Damage. Journal of Gastroenterology, 50, 614–625.

12. Hakimian, J., Minasyan, A., Zhe-Ying, L., et al. 2017). Specific Behavioral and Cellular Adaptations Induced by Chronic Morphine Are Reduced by Dietary Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids. PloS One, 12(4), e0175090.

13. Hakimian, J. K., Dong, T. S., Barahona, J. A., et al. 2019). Dietary Supplementation with Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Reduces Opioid-Seeking Behaviors and Alters the Gut Microbiome. Nutrients, 11(8), 1900.

14. Hill, C. et al. (2009). The Use of Fish Oil in the Community: Results of a Population-Based Study. Rheumatology, 48(4), 441-2.

Bo Martinsen, MD

Dr. Martinsen is an omega-3 specialist, innovator, and advocate for natural foods. As co-founder and CEO of Omega3 Innovations, he has created multiple patented technologies for medical devices designed to improve consumer compliance. He is also the creator of several medical food products that combine dose-effective ingredients of omega-3 fish oil with soluble fibers and other nutrients. Before Omega3 Innovations, Dr. Martinsen practiced medicine in Norway for 20 years. During his career, he also served as a medical consultant to large international corporations, focusing on stress management and synergistic medicine.

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