In collaboration with Keck School of Medicine

The Fatty Acid that May Help Reduce Chronic Pain

fatty acid from nuts

When it comes to managing chronic pain, most people don’t look to the end of their fork for help. Despite this, recent research suggests that maybe it’s time to do just that. There are certain things we eat that can help our body naturally address chronic pain. Some of the right fatty acids in one’s diet may go a long way toward improving quality of life by reducing chronic pain experiences.

Research by Okayama University was published in August 2022, explaining how an essential fatty acid, called Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), can help to reduce chronic pain naturally[1]. EPA belongs to the omega-3 group of polyunsaturated fatty acids. It’s something the body cannot synthesize on its own, making it essential that people get it in a dietary form.

The research found that EPA can help naturally alleviate pain by reducing pain perception. This happens in the body when the EPA targets the transporter, which exacerbates the pain perception. During the process, the purigenic chemical transmission process is targeted and blocked, leading to reduced pain perception.

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Those who actively ensure they are getting EPA in their diet may be able to take advantage of the natural pain relief properties that it is believed to induce. This goes for both inflammatory and neuropathic pain. The benefits don’t stop there, however, because EPA also helps with insulin resistance, reducing blood lipid levels, reducing mortality risk after a heart attack, and more.

According to the National Institutes of Health, polyunsaturated fatty acids are healthy fats that are found in plant and animal products [2]. They advise that ideally, people should aim to derive no more than 25-30% of their calories from fat. Healthy sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids include fish, hemp oil, linseed oil, vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds.

Opioids have side effects that make it ideal to look for alternatives to help with chronic pain management. Finding natural ways to help reduce chronic pain is a great way to improve quality of life, feel better, and not have as many negative side effects. Ideally, people who have chronic pain may want to aim to get more EPA in their diet or speak to their doctor about supplementary options.

The more options people have for helping with chronic pain management, the better. This is one more tool that people can turn to try to seek relief. Adding some walnuts to the diet, or making other food choices to increase EPA, may prove beneficial.

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Like what you’re learning? Consider enrolling in the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC’s online, competency-based certificate or master’s program in Pain Medicine in partnership with the Keck School of Medicine of USC.


  1. Okayama University. August 2022. Elucidating the molecular targets of ‘eicosapentaenoic acid’: A natural remedy for chronic pain.
  2. National Institutes of Health. Facts about polyunsaturated fats.
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