Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy: Is There a Role for Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Antioxidants?

J.S. Lewis, F.M. Sandford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the lack of robust evidence, there has been a steady increase in the use of dietary supplements, including Omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants, in the management of musculoskeletal conditions. One reason for this is that unsatisfactory outcomes with conventional treatments have lead sufferers to seek alternative solutions including the use of nutritional supplements. In the United Kingdom alone, the current supplement market is estimated to be over £300 million per annum. One target market for nutritional supplements is tendinopathies including conditions involving the rotator cuff. This condition is debilitating and associated with considerable morbidity. Incidence increases with advancing age. High levels of cytokines, such as the pro-inflammatory interleukin 1β and vascular endothelial growth factor, have been reported within the bursa of patients with rotator cuff disease. There is also evidence that high concentrations of free-radical oxidants may also be involved in tendon pathology. Therefore, the possibility exists that dietary supplements may have a beneficial effect on tendon pathology, including that of the rotator cuff. A review was conducted to synthesize the available research literature on the histopathology of rotator cuff disease and the effectiveness of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and antioxidants on tendinopathies. A search was conducted using the MEDLINE, CINAHL, AMED, EMBASE, Cochrane, and PEDro databases using the terms "rotator cuff" and "tear/s" and "subacromial impingement syndrome," "burase," "bursitis," "tendinopathy," "tendinitis," "tendinosis," "polyunsaturated fatty acids," "PUFA," "Omega 3," "histopathology," "etiology," and "antioxidants." English language was an inclusion criterion. There were no randomized clinical trials found relating specifically to the rotator cuff. Only one trial was found that investigated the efficacy of PUFAs and antioxidants on tendinopathies. The findings suggest that some (low level) evidence exists to support the supplementation in the management of tendinopathies. Any conclusions based on this one article should be reached with caution. Subsequently, there is a distinct and clear need for well-planned randomized controlled trials that aim to investigate the efficacy of supplements in the management of tendinopathies including those of the rotator cuff.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-56
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Hand Therapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009


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