Research: GOLDBERG and KATZ,

Listed in Issue 149


GOLDBERG and KATZ, Department of Psychology, York University, Toronto, ON, Canada, have meta-analyzed the pain-relieving effects of n-3 fatty acids in inflammatory joint pain.


Between 40% and 60% of Americans use complementary and alternative medicine to manage medical conditions, prevent disease, and promote health and well-being. N-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids have been used to treat joint pain associated with several inflammatory conditions. The aim of this study was to test the evidence for this effect.


A meta-analysis of 17 randomized, controlled trials was conducted assessing the pain relieving effects of n-3 fatty acids in patients with rheumatoid arthritis or joint pain secondary to inflammatory bowel disease and dysmenorrhea. Meta-analysis was conducted with Cochrane Review Manager 4.2.8. for six separate outcomes using standardized mean differences (SMDs) as a measure of effect size: (1) patient assessed pain, (2) physician assessed pain, (3) duration of morning stiffness, (4) number of painful and/or tender joints, (5) Ritchie articular index, and (6) anti-inflammatory drug consumption.


Supplementation with n-3 fatty acids for 3-4 months reduces patient reported joint pain intensity (Mean difference: -0.26, p=0.03), minutes of morning stiffness (Mean difference: -0.43, p=0.003), number of painful and/or tender joints (Mean difference: -0.29, p=0.003), and NSAID consumption (Mean difference: -0.40, p=0.01). Significant effects were not detected for physician assessed pain (Mean difference: -0.14, p=0.45) or Ritchie articular index (Mean difference: 0.15, p=0.40) at 3-4 months.


These results suggest that n-3 fatty acids are an attractive adjunctive treatment for joint pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and dysmenorrhea


Goldberg RJ, Katz J. A meta-analysis of the analgesic effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation for inflammatory joint pain.  Pain 129 (1-2): 210-223, May 2007.


The above meta-analysis of 17 randomized controlled trials assessing pain-relieving effects of n-3 fatty acids for inflammatory joint pain are encouraging, in that n-3 supplementation reduced join pain intensity, morning stiffness and the number of painful and/or tender joints. It is hoped that n-3 supplementation will become integrated into the clinical regime for treating arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.

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