Tendonitis is a common and painful condition that can be frustrating to active individuals who feel held back by the injury. Fortunately, suffers of tendonitis may not have to suffer indefinitely, as many new treatments for tendonitis are being currently being researched. Fish oil, because of its anti-inflammatory properties, is one treatment that has been found to help tendons heal.
Tendons are the connectors in your body between your muscles and your bones. Because tendons have a smaller blood supply than muscles, they often become overstressed while your muscles feel fine. Tendonitis is a condition in which a tendon becomes inflamed. Tendonitis is painful, as your tendon often swells, crackles, and feels warm and tender. If you continue to exercise or do whatever activity caused your tendonitis in the first place, it will only exacerbate the problem. Tendonitis commonly occurs in the shoulder, elbow (called tennis or golfer's elbow), wrist, knee and ankle (Achillies' tendon).
Oil and fats are necessary for the regular functioning of your body, and the type of oil consumed matters significantly. Currently, most Western diets consist of too many omega-6 fatty acids and not enough omega-3s. Omega-6s are found in oils derived from common foods such as corn and soybeans. Omega-3s are prevalent in fish oil. They can be obtained either by eating fish directly, or by taking supplements.
According to a 2009 article published by Duda, M.K. et al. in the journal "Cardiovascular Research," fish oil decreases inflammation. This anti-inflammatory response is the reason fish oil is so beneficial to people with tendonitis.
Fish Oil Treatment for Tendonitis
Fish oil helps decrease inflammation, which is usually prevalent in our bodies because of our Western diets. Healing tendons is slow or impossible when negative inflammation throughout your body prevents it, but some types of inflammation can be good. The anti-inflammatory properties from fish oil do not interfere with the kind of inflammation you should stimulate with massage and exercise that will help heal your tendons. This is not true in Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS), such as Ibuprofen, which do act against the beneficial type of inflammation needed for healing.
Other Tendonitis Treatments
Fish oil supplements should be just that--supplements to a comprehensive plan developed by your doctor to heal your tendonitis. Rest, ice and massage are usually the first forms of treatment for mild tendonitis. To control pain, your doctor may prescribe painkillers or over-the-counter NSAIDS. Physical therapy is a good option for more serious tendonitis, and your physical therapist can help you with stretching and strengthening exercises that will set you on the road to recovery. Physical therapists also have access to technologies such as ultrsound, which can be used to heat the tendon and increase blood supply to it. Depending on the severity of your tendonitis, steroid injections or surgery may be necessary.
Fish Oil Safety
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements such as fish oils. Since there is no government agency to hold fish oil supplement producers accountable, be sure to research the brand of fish oil that you plan to use first. See the "Resources" section for a list that ranks fish oil supplements according to their safety.
Although fish oil is not a drug, it can cause interactions with other drugs, and therefore you should consult your doctor before you start a fish oil regimen. Also, if you have any allergy or sensitivity to seafood or fish, fish oil may not be a good choice for you.
Side Effects and Warnings
The most potentially dangerous aspect of consuming fish oil is that harmful contaminants such as dioxins, mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls are contained in high levels in many types of fish due to years of environmental and water pollution. These toxins are most harmful in children and in pregnant or breastfeeding women. While these toxins are present in significant amounts in the fish animal, they are not problematic in fish oil supplements that have been safely processed.
The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil (which confer positive anti-inflammatory properties) also confer some side effects that are generally not considered dangerous in healthy individuals. These side effects include increased risk of bleeding and stomach issues. Digestive issues involving the stomach, such as bloating, acid reflux and a fishy aftertaste can usually be improved by taking fish oils only with meals. If you have any side effects, however, discontinue use until you speak with your doctor.