Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Can Improve Chronic Pain

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Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Can Improve Chronic Pain

Chronic pain represents an important health concern  across the globe. The prevalence of chronic pain very across the world between 10% and 25%, and one-tenth of the adult population is diagnosed with chronic pain every year with a median duration of 7 years per episode. Chronic pain may arise from an initial injury, such as a back sprain, or it may be due to an ongoing cause or any illness and it is also possible to have a pain with no known cause. Other health problems, such as fatigue, sleep disturbance, decreased appetite, and mood changes, often accompany chronic pain. Chronic pain may limit a person’s movements, which can reduce flexibility, strength, and stamina thereby affecting overall quality of life. This difficulty in carrying out important and enjoyable activities can lead to disability and despair.

 The role of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) as an effective treatment for chronic pain conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, was debated in the last decade . It was found that Ω-3 PUFA eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) decreased the activity of Ω-6 PUFA arachidonic acid (ARA), a fatty acid that is related to the production of inflammatory mediators. The present study was conducted to probe out and confirm the benefits of PUFA as a preventive or curative treatment in chronic pain.

 The study included both observational and interventional studies which reported the effective measures and their confidence intervals (CI) of PUFA intake in the regular diet or supplementation and its association with pain. Data was extracted independently from the selected studies and quality of interventional studies were rated using the Jadad score. Pooled standardized mean differences of pain indices such as the Visual Analogue Score. Further subgroup analyses by disease, type of PUFA, outcome scale, quality index, dose and time of supplementation.

 During the analysis, 5 observational and 46 intervention studies were retrieved. However, only one observational study showed a protective effect of PUFA. On the contrary, the interventional studies yielded a pooled random effects SMD of -0.40 (95% CI -0.58, -0.22), which indicated the improvement, as 0 is the value that indicates the absence of effect. The largest effect was found for dysmenorrhea (SMD -0.82, 95% CI -1.21, -0.43), Ω-3 supplementation (-0.47, 95% CI -0.68, -0.26) and composite scores (-0.58, 95% CI -1.07, -0.09). Mitigation of pain was stronger for low doses (-0.55, 95% CI -0.79, -0.30) and short supplementation periods (-0.56, 95% CI -0.86, -0.25).

 On the completion of study, results suggested that Ω-3 PUFA supplementation moderately improved the chronic pain, mainly that due to dysmenorrhea. However, further investigation is still required on the preventive potential of PUFA supplementation as the evidence is scarce.



Pain Physician

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Original title of article:

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Chronic Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis



Jesús Prego-Domínguez, MSc, Fatine Hadrya, PhD, and Bahi Takkouche, MD, PhD



Pain Physician
Therapeutic, Eicosapentaenoic acid, Docosahexaenoic acid, Dysmenorrhea, Pain, Chronic, Polyunsaturated fatty acids, Observational study, Efficacy, VAS
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