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Curcumin May Relieve Inflammation, Pain of Tendinitis


Curcumin adds that special pizzazz to curry dishes, and now it may also dish out hope for people who suffer with tendinitis and other tendon diseases. Researchers have announced that curcumin may have a positive effect on the mechanisms that cause inflammation and pain in tendinitis and related conditions.

Curcumin fights inflammation

Results of the new study, conducted by researchers at The University of Nottingham and Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, suggest that curcumin, the substance in the spice turmeric that gives this culinary favorite its yellow color, may play an important role in the treatment of tendinitis (tendonitis) and similar inflammatory problems. They do not suggest, noted co-leader of the study Dr. Ali Mobasheri of the University’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, that curcumin can cure tendinitis.

The term “tendinitis” is used to describe an inflammation or irritation of any of the thick fibrous cords that attach muscles to bones, result in pain and tenderness outside a joint. The most common sites affected by tendinitis are the shoulders, heels, elbows, and wrists, although it also affects the knees. Names given to tendinitis problems—tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, swimmer’s shoulder, Achilles tendinitis—reflect the problem areas.

The study involved the use of human tendon cells in culture. Using the model, the investigators were able to observe the effects of curcumin on inflammatory and degenerative actions instigated by interleukins, protein molecules capable of activating inflammatory genes by triggering a biological “switch” called NF-kB. When curcumin was introduced to the culture, it stopped the NF-kB from switching on, thus inhibiting inflammation.

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Curcumin has been the subject of numerous studies investigating its anti-inflammatory and other properties. A recent review from Oregon Health & Science University entitled “Clinical inquiry: Does turmeric relieve inflammatory conditions?” reported there is “limited evidence” suggesting turmeric and curcumin are effective for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, and inflammatory eye disease.

Based on the new findings regarding curcumin, Mobasheri noted that “we believe that it could offer scientists an important new lead in the treatment of these painful conditions through nutrition.” He recommended further research into the properties of curcumin as well as chemically modified versions of the turmeric component.

Currently, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSADIs) are used to treat the inflammation and pain associated with tendinitis and similar conditions such as arthritis. For patients with more serious tendon injuries, steroid injections can be given. However, both NSAIDs and steroids are associated with constipation, diarrhea, drowsiness, fatigue headache, heartburn, nausea, stomach ulcers, and vomiting.

Therefore, use of complementary therapies to treat tendinitis and other inflammatory conditions are needed. Previous studies show that turmeric and curcumin are considered safe when they are used at recommended doses. Taking large amounts for a prolonged period of time, however, may cause stomach upset and even ulcers in extreme cases.

University of Maryland Medical Center
University of Nottingham
White B, Judkins DZ. Journal of Family Practice 2011 Mar; 60(3): 155-56

Picture source: Wikimedia Commons