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Do Fish Oil Tablets Lubricate the Joints?

By Lee Woodard

Science has been getting on board the dietary supplement train in recent years, with many studies to determine the claimed use and effectiveness of these products. Fish oil has been the topic of many such studies, with evidence available on its use and effectiveness in the treatment of everything from high blood pressure to lupus.

Joint health and the treatment of joint-related diseases such as arthritis have also been the topic of scientific and medical study on the use of fish oil.

Relief of Pain

The relief of joint pain from the use of fish oil supplements is thought to be related to the anti-inflammatory properties of the supplement.

The process of inflammation brings increased blood to the area involved, which in turn causes swelling of the inflamed area. This increase in blood flow and swelling results in discomfort and sometimes reduced mobility or use of the affected area.

When an anti-inflammatory product such as fish oil reduces that inflammation, the result is less swelling. When the swelling is reduced, so is the discomfort and reduction of use to the affected area.


Arthritis Today, a newsletter produced by the Arthritis Foundation, reveals an analysis performed on the outcome of nine scientific studies regarding the use of fish oil to relieve rheumatoid arthritis pain. The conclusion reached was that for those people involved in the study, there was a reduction in the number of joints producing discomfort, but there was no healing of the damage to the joints.

You may not suffer from arthritis, but the evidence attributed to the effects of fish oil on joint pain in that condition suggests the supplement will aid joint pain caused by other forms of inflammation.


An inaccurate understanding of the method of action fish oil has on the joints would be to think that fish oil lubricates the joints. It is actually the reduction of inflammation in the joints that results in increased ability to move and a reduction in pain.

Additional Research Information

Health experts at the Mayo Clinic, while acknowledging that there have been randomized, controlled studies whose outcomes suggest that the use of fish oil supplements decreased morning stiffness and joint discomfort, state that the studies had some weaknesses, which prevents the Mayo Clinic from a stronger recommendation on the use of this supplement to reduce joint pain.

The Arthritis Foundation reports that overall results of six separate studies revealed that people with rheumatoid arthritis took fish oil supplements were able to take less of their corticosteroid and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS).


The recommended dosage of fish oil ranges from 2 grams to 10 grams per day. Fish oil, like many supplements, may not show immediate benefit. It is recommended that if you choose to use fish oil, do so for 3 months before determining whether it is beneficial for you.


Among health experts, there is concern that fish oil supplementation may increase a person's risk of bleeding due to interference with blood clotting factors. The Mayo Clinic reports that there has been little evidence of this with small doses of fish oil; the risk would increase as the dosage of fish oil increases.

Consult your health care adviser before beginning fish oil supplementation if the risk of bleeding concerns you or if you are on blood-thinning medication.

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