Fish Oil For Joints

Fish Oil For Joints

9 minute read

Joint pain is a common condition that affects people around the world. Depending on its severity, suffering from stiff, achy, and painful joints can get in the way of your ability to do even the most basic everyday tasks. At worst, it can even become debilitating and be a huge barrier to your quality of life.

Luckily, you don't need to suffer the pain in silence. Omega-3 fatty acids are emerging as a potential solution to managing joint pain due to their anti-inflammatory properties.* In this article, we will explore the connection between omega-3 consumption and joint pain, as well as how microalgae oil supplements can play a supportive role in helping to manage the pain. 

What is fish oil/omega-3s?

Omega 3s

Omega-3s are a type of healthy fat that you can get from your diet. Dietary fat tends to have a negative connotation, but in reality, many kinds of fats, including omega-3s, omega-6, and omega-9, are necessary for many purposes in your body. 

What's more, your body can't make many omega-3s on its own, meaning they are considered essential nutrients you need to get from your diet and supplements. 

There are three main kinds of omega-3s that are commonly found in foods: 

  • DHA, short for docosahexaenoic acid
  • EPA, short for eicosapentaenoic acid
  • ALA, short for alpha-linolenic acid

While all three kinds of omega-3s can play important roles in your body, it's especially important to be getting enough DHA and ALA if you want to take advantage of the potential health benefits of omega-3s. While ALA can be found in various plant-based foods like walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds, it must be converted into DHA and EPA for your body to use. Unfortunately, only small amounts of ALA are naturally converted in this process. how to get omega 3s

So the best way to get enough omega-3s is to include foods and supplements that contain DHA and EPA in your diet. Because of this, fish oil is a popular omega-3 supplement. Fish oil is made primarily from omega-3-rich fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel, all of which naturally contain plenty of DHA and EPA.

How does fish oil/omega-3 work?

To understand why fish oil and omega-3s have so many potential health benefits, it's helpful to understand what inflammation is and why it is linked to so many health concerns.

Inflammation is your immune system's natural response to anything it considers potentially dangerous to your health. It starts the inflammatory process when it detects something that could be harmful, like an invading bacteria or virus that can make you sick. Blood begins to flow to the affected area, carrying white blood cells that "attack" the invader with the ultimate goal of keeping you healthy.

Unfortunately, under certain conditions, you may experience “chronic inflammation,” which is a low-grade inflammation that eventually causes your body to attack its own cells. Chronic inflammation has been linked to a variety of ailments ranging from heart disease to diabetes and allergies.

This is where omega-3s can come into play. Both EPA and DHA are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can support your body and help manage out-of-control inflammation. 

benefits of omega 3s

Omega-3s are also essential "building blocks" for some of the most important cells in your body, including your brain and eyes. So because of these various developmental and potential anti-inflammatory mechanisms, omega-3s are linked to a variety of health benefits including:

In addition, omega-3s are also thought to have very real benefits when it comes to minimizing the pain from some inflammatory conditions that can affect your joints!*

Does fish oil help with joint pain?

Does fish oil help with joint pain

Your joints are where two bones make contact with each other in the body. Usually, joints are cushioned by cartilage, a kind of slippery tissue that reduces friction as your bones move against one another. But if something affects that cushioning, you can feel joint pain.

Unfortunately, joint pain and achiness are very common. Joint pain can have a variety of potential causes, including injuries/trauma, infections, or degeneration of the protective cartilage due to certain diseases as well as aging. The severity of joint pain can also vary depending on its cause, ranging from slight achiness to debilitating pain. 

In addition, many causes of joint pain stem from inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and gout. In these inflammatory conditions, the tissues surrounding the joints like the cartilage can become inflamed, leading to pain, stiffness, and swelling. Even osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease historically linked to movement and use, seems to involve low-grade inflammation that comes from the degeneration of the cartilage tissue and the subsequent irritation as your bones move against each other.

So because so many joint pain issues seem to be associated with inflammation, it might get you wondering whether you can use fish oil or other omega-3 supplements as a dietary supplement that can help support your body in managing the pain. Luckily, there's plenty of evidence that indicates that adding omega-3s to your diet can help support you if you have achy joints!  

Remember, one of the primary reasons that omega-3 fatty acids are such a powerful nutrient to include in your diet is because they have anti-inflammatory properties*. These properties seem to apply to joint pain and other types of pain just as much as it does to your brain health and heart health. 

For example, one meta-analysis of several different studies found that the use of omega-3 supplements was associated with reduced joint pain intensity, stiffness, and the number of painful or tender joints in participants. The researchers here concluded that the use of omega-3 supplements may be a promising complementary treatment for joint pain from various inflammatory conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, as well as a good analgesic (pain reliever) for issues like inflammatory bowel disease and menstrual cramps. 

Another study found similarly promising results when they gave people with joint pain omega-3 supplements. 68% of the participants stated that their joint pain had improved, 80% indicated that they were satisfied with their improvement, and 88% said that they would continue taking fish oil. Researchers even concluded that it was a safer alternative to NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), which fight inflammation but can also come with certain side effects like gastrointestinal distress, stomach ulcers, headaches, and interactions with other medications. 

So while omega-3s are a nutritional supplement, not a medicine, the research shows that the addition of these healthy fatty acids to your diet can make a difference if you suffer from achy, painful joints. If you want to add omega-3s to your diet, make sure to talk with your doctor to determine the right dosages for your needs. 

A vegan alternative to fish oil

We've established that fish oil is a viable supplement to add to your routine if you suffer from joint pain due to inflammatory conditions. But what if you can't — or don't — eat fish?

Fish oil tends to be the most popular omega-3 supplement since it has long been a staple in nutrition supplement brands. But the good news is that you don’t have to use fish oil to get an ample amount of omega-3s. You can use an algae oil supplement instead!

Algae oil is a vegan-friendly alternative to fish oil that carries the same omega-3s as traditional fish oil. Algae oil is made from microalgae, an aquatic plant that produces DHA and EPA from photosynthesis. These microalgae are a big part of the reason fatty, cold-water fish are such good sources of omega-3s since they're a big part of those fish's diets! A vegan alternative to fish oil

Unlike other plant-based omega-3 supplements that include omega-3s from sources like chia seeds and hemp, algae oil supplements contain EPA and DHA, not ALA. This means you don't have to sacrifice your omega-3 needs even following a plant-based diet! This also means you can get your omega-3s more sustainably since microalgae can be farmed responsibly without affecting natural marine ecosystems. Meanwhile, both fish consumption and fish oil production can contribute to overfishing and damage to marine ecosystems.

Most importantly, using an algae oil supplement can also potentially help with your joint pain the same way your fish oil supplement would.* Studies have found that using an algae oil/pine bark supplement led to better improvements in osteoarthritic pain than glucosamine, another popular pain reliever often used for joint pain.

The bottom line here: you may not need to rely on NSAIDs or other supplements alone to relieve your joint pain if you're suffering from rheumatoid arthritis or any other kind of inflammatory joint pain. Consuming extra omega-3s from algae oil can be just as effective in supporting your pain management as fish oil pills, and you don't need to change your diet or lifestyle if you are vegan or vegetarian.


Omega-3 fatty acids carry out a wide range of duties in your body that are supportive of your health. One of the main reasons they are so valuable is that they are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can make a world of difference if you suffer from joint pain due to an inflammatory condition. Algae oil is a sustainable, vegan-friendly alternative to fish oil that can help manage pain without compromise.

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