Can curry knock tendinitis off track?

U. NOTTINGHAM (UK) — A derivative of a common culinary spice found in Indian curries could offer new treatment for the painful condition tendinitis.

A paper published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry finds that curcumin, which also gives the spice turmeric its trademark bright yellow coloring, can be used to suppress biological mechanisms that spark inflammation in tendon diseases.

“Our research is not suggesting that curry, turmeric, or curcumin are cures for inflammatory conditions such as tendinitis and arthritis,” says Ali Mobasheri, associate professor of comparative physiology at the University of Nottingham.


“However, we believe that it could offer scientists an important new lead in the treatment of these painful conditions through nutrition.

“Further research into curcumin, and chemically-modified versions of it, should be the subject of future investigations and complementary therapies aimed at reducing the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, the only drugs currently available for the treatment of tendinitis and various forms of arthritis.”

Tendons, the tough cords of fibrous connective tissue that join muscles to bones, are essential for movement because they transfer the force of muscle contraction to bones.

But they’re also prone to injury, particularly in athletes who may overstretch themselves and overuse their joints. Tendinitis (or tendonitis) is a form of tendon inflammation, which causes pain and tenderness near joints and is particularly common in shoulders, elbows, knees, hips, heels, or wrists.

Other examples of common tendon disease include tennis and golfer’s elbow and Achilles tendinitis.

Because people are living longer, tendinitis, which is linked to rheumatoid arthritis or metabolic diseases such as diabetes, is one the rise.  Currently the only pain treatment are found in non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as aspirin or ibuprofen.

In more serious cases of tendon injury, steroid injections can be given directly into the tendon sheath to control pain and enable physical therapy to start.

However, NSAIDS and steroids are associated with undesired side effects including stomach ulcers, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, headache, diarrhea, constipation, drowsiness, and fatigue.

The new research focuses on curcumin, a key ingredient of the spice turmeric, which has been used for centuries in traditional Indian medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent and remedy for symptoms related to irritable bowel syndrome and other disorders.

Recent studies have linked it to potential uses in treating arthritis and a range of rheumatic diseases and, potentially, even as an agent to kill cancer cells directly or make them more sensitive to killing by chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

The current study used a culture model of human tendon inflammation to study the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin on tendon cells.

The main objective of the study was to observe the effects that curcumin had on the inflammatory and degenerative properties induced by signaling molecules called interleukins, a type of small cell-signaling protein molecules called cytokines that can activate a whole series of inflammatory genes by triggering a dangerous ‘switch’ called NF-kB.

Findings show that introducing curcumin in the culture system inhibits NF-kB and prevents it from switching on and promoting further inflammation.

Researchers from Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich contributed to the study.

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