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Can Cod Liver Oil Relieve Your Knee Pain?

One reader was thrilled to have cod liver oil relieve the pain of osteoarthritis in the knee so much that knee replacement surgery could be canceled.

Knee osteoarthritis can really interfere with mobility. Doctors prescribe pain relievers such as diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren) or meloxicam (Mobic), but patients should not take such NSAID medications indefinitely. In addition to their propensity for irritating the digestive tract, these drugs can also harm the cardiovascular system (American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs, Oct. 2017). Could a simple home remedy such as cod liver oil relieve osteoarthritis pain? One reader thinks so.

Will Cod Liver Oil Relieve Knee Arthritis?

Q. Several years ago, I read about a study done at Cardiff University in Wales. The scientists gave patients scheduled for knee replacement surgery either 1,000 milligrams of cod liver oil or placebo. The volunteers took these pills for 10 to 12 weeks and then had their surgery.

Samples of cartilage and joint tissue were available from the surgery. They showed that 86 percent of the patients on cod liver oil produced less of a cartilage-eroding enzyme. Some had none. The pills also reduced levels of other enzymes that cause pain.

I decided to try adding cod liver oil pills to the glucosamine and chrondroitin I was already taking already. I marked my calendar. If I had no reduction in pain in 10 to 12 weeks, I’d decided I would discontinue the cod liver oil. My pain was so bad that it would wake me from a sound sleep every night and I would be up for hours. Nothing helped. I felt it was just a matter of time until I would need to have the knee replaced.

One morning, I realized that I had slept thru the night with no pain! On checking the calendar, I discovered it had been only 21 days since I started the cod liver oil.

I have recommended this to many people who have gotten the same wonderful results. How many knee replacement surgeries could be avoided if people tried taking cod liver oil first?

How Might Cod Liver Oil Relieve Joint Pain?

A. Thank you for alerting us to an interesting, though small, study. It included 31 people and was presented at the Third Congress of the European Federation for the Science and Technology of Lipids.

Many doctors perceive the use of cod liver oil for joint pain as an old wives’ tale. It is a shame that so few scientists have conducted research to investigate the potential benefits of cod liver oil for osteoarthritis.

This fish oil, like others, appears to reduce inflammation (Papageorgiou et al, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 2011). The omega-3 fats in fish oil also seem to protect the heart rather than putting it at risk (Gilbert et al, European Journal of Pharmacology, Dec. 15, 2015).

Anyone who is interested in nondrug approaches to easing joint pain may be interested in our online electronic resource, Alternatives for Arthritis. You will find this e-guide for sale at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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