PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA. The highly publicized cardiovascular side effects found with the specific COX-2 inhibitors such as Vioxx and now the indication that such problems may be characteristic of other members of the general class of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) has focused attention on alternatives. The omega-3 fatty acids are prime candidates. This study from the University of Pittsburgh examined patient-perceived benefits of supplementation with eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (EPA and DHA) at 1.2 g/day to 2.4 g/day for the relief of neck and back pain, mostly due to degenerative disc disease. All patients were taking NSAIDs with 75% on COX-2 inhibitors. Results were assessed after one month.
Fifty-nine percent discontinued taking their prescription NSAID medication, 60% stated that their overall pain was reduced, and a similar percentage stated that their joint pain had lessened. Eighty percent were satisfied with the improvement and 88% stated they would continue using a fish oil supplement. No significant side effects were seen.
The authors point out that these results are similar to controlled studies that compared the over-the-counter NSAID ibuprofen with omega-3 supplements for effectiveness in reducing arthritic pain. They conclude that fish oil supplements appear to be a safe alternative to NSAIDs for the treatment of non-surgical neck or back pain.
Maroon, J.C. et al. Omega-3 Fatty Acids as an Anti-inflammatory: an Alternative to Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs for Discogenic Pain. Surgical Neurology, 2006, Vol. 65, pp. 326-31