Spinal cord injury is a devastating condition that can change a person’s life. An individual with spinal cord injury may experience chronic neuropathic pain, which is “a type of chronic pain that occurs when nerves in the central nervous system become injured or damaged,” according to the American Chronic Pain Association. This pain is traditionally treated with medication, exercises, meditation and stress management. Now, researchers are exploring different ways to manage chronic pain caused by spinal cord injury. In a new study by Loma Linda University researchers, chronic pain was shown to decrease once an individual started consuming a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
The study was published in Neuroscience. In the study, the researchers discovered that rats with spinal cord injury felt less pain as a result of a diet with omega-3 fatty acids. For 16 weeks, the researchers analyzed two different groups of rats with spinal cord injury. One group was fed control chow and the other group was fed chow enriched with omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-3 fatty acid group exhibited less pain than the other group, according to a press release.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids found in foods such as fish, other seafood, plants and nuts. Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to be important for brain function, and may also reduce the risk for heart disease. Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation.
One of the researchers in the study said that “while clinical studies are needed to establish a functional human equivalent for a diet rich in omega-3 acids, there are plenty of benefits in implementing a diet rich in omega-3 because of its anti-inflammatory and protective properties,” according to the press release. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) supported the study with grants.