Fish oil is one of the most popular supplements worldwide. It’s well established how it promotes heart health, but few people know about the benefits of fish oil for knee pain.
As the name suggests, these oils are derived from fish. They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, compounds that possess countless health benefits, like decreasing inflammation.
This supplement can provide relief by reducing the swelling responsible for knee pain – we’ll expand further on that below.
Here are the topics we’ll cover – tap on any of them to easily navigate through the article:
- How does fish oil provide knee pain relief?
- Recommended dose
- Safety, side effects, and risks of fish oils
- Fish oil vs cod liver oil
- Other supplements
- Other treatments
How does fish oil help knee pain?
Fish oils possess anti-inflammatory properties, which is what makes them beneficial for knee pain. (1)
See, there are two common causes of knee pain – osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Both conditions share similar symptoms, including inflammation.
This means that their treatments also focus on providing pain relief. One of the ways to do it is by suppressing the inflammation that triggers pain in the first place.
For instance, painkillers work by blocking the inflammatory pathway. And although effective, they can’t be taken for more than a few days at a time due to the risk of serious adverse effects.
But omega-3 fatty acids could be a safer option than painkillers.
They help decrease inflammation by lowering the production of inflammation-inducing chemicals. (2)
This is extremely helpful in conditions like knee osteoarthritis, where the inflammation of the joint is directly associated with the severity of pain. This swelling is also linked to cartilage loss, which can further worsen knee pain. (2)
Also, fish oil improves blood circulation in joint tissues.
In people with metabolic diseases such as obesity and high blood pressure, the knee joints are prone to suffer from a lower blood supply.
The problem is that when any tissue is cut off from adequate blood supply, this can cause irreversible injury to the tissues. In knee joints, a lack of blood supply can worsen cartilage loss and knee pain.
But, supplementing with fish oil can promote blood flow by dilating the small blood vessels in joint cartilage. This in turn can restore nutrient and oxygen supply to the knee joints. (1)
Dosage of fish oil supplements for knee pain relief
- 400 mg EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and
- 200 mg DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
However, these amounts vary widely depending on the brand. (1)
Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in many dietary supplements, including cod liver oil, fish oils, and other vegetarian food products.
Are fish oil supplements safe?
When fish oil is taken in the recommended dosage, they are generally well-tolerated and considered a safe dietary supplement.
Some potential side effects of fish oils are:
- Bad breath.
- Upset stomach: Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Allergic reactions such as skin rash.
Risk of toxicity
Taking fish oil in doses higher than recommended can, in rare cases, cause toxic effects. Some adverse effects include an increased risk of stroke and bleeding.
To prevent this, the FDA recommends not exceeding a daily dose of 3 g/day of EPA and DHA combined. Additionally, less than 2 g/day should be from supplements. (4)
Fish oil vs cod liver oil for knee pain
Both fish oil and cod liver oil are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. But, cod liver oil also contains large quantities of vitamin A and D. (5)
While these vitamins are essential, taking them in high doses can do more harm than good. Taking high doses of cod liver oil can increase the risk of toxicity with vitamin A and D.
This means that, for some people, fish oil may be a safer source of omega 3 fatty acids in comparison to cod liver oil.
Other supplements for knee pain
Apart from fish oils, there are many other supplements that can help treat knee joint pain. Some commonly used supplements for knee pain are:
Each of these supplements works in a slightly different manner from the other.
Whereas fish oils work by reducing inflammation and improving blood flow.
You can try combining two or three supplements together to see what works best for you. An ideal combination would provide relief from knee pain with minimal side effects.
Few studies have looked at the benefits of combining fish oil with other supplements. But, considering the many benefits of each supplement, it may be worthwhile to give each a try.
This will help: 8 Best supplements for knee pain.
Other treatments for knee pain
Combining fish oil supplements with other treatments for knee pain can be more advantageous than taking just one supplement or trying out just one treatment.
Some treatments that can be tried in combination with fish oil are:
Learn more: Best treatments for knee pain.
Which is better for knee arthritis: glucosamine or fish oil?
Both fish oil and glucosamine can help treat knee pain. Try each for a few weeks at a time to see which one suits you better.
Is fish oil good for knee pain?
Fish oil’s anti-inflammatory properties make it a great supplement for treating knee pain caused by inflammatory disorders, such as osteoarthritis.
How much fish oil should I take for knee pain?
Taking 1000 to 2000 mg per day of fish oil supplement can help treat knee pain. (3)
Conclusion: Can fish oil help knee pain?
Fish oils have many health benefits.
This is because they are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which have potent anti-inflammatory properties. This feature makes it particularly beneficial for knee pain.
As per studies, 1000 to 2000 mg/day of fish oils can help treat knee pain. (3)
However, if you’re not sure whether you should take fish oil supplements or not, consult with your doctor to be on the safe side.
- Kuszewski, Julia C et al. “Fish oil supplementation reduces osteoarthritis-specific pain in older adults with overweight/obesity.” Rheumatology advances in practice vol. 4,2 rkaa036. 23 Jul. 2020.
- Hill, Catherine L., et al. “Fish oil in knee osteoarthritis: a randomised clinical trial of low dose versus high dose.” Annals of the rheumatic diseases 75.1 (2016): 23-29.
- Peanpadungrat, Pornrawee. “Efficacy and Safety of Fish Oil in Treatment of Knee Osteoarthritis.” Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand = Chotmaihet thangphaet vol. 98 Suppl 3 (2015): S110-4.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Summary of qualified health claims subject to enforcement discretion. 2014.
- “Omega-3 Fatty Acids.” Office of Dietary Supplements. Retrieved from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/
- Zeng, Chao et al. “Effectiveness and safety of Glucosamine, chondroitin, the two in combination, or celecoxib in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee.” Scientific reports vol. 5 16827. 18 Nov. 2015.