Inflammation Is Very Common In The Musculoskeletal System
It is one of the ways your body regulates and restores the normal functioning of an area. If you’ve ever had a nasty whack, you’ll be familiar with the misery of the body’s inflammatory response – redness, heat, swelling and pain.
Although annoying, and painful, this type of acute inflammatory response (the result of an injury) is natural and an essential part of your healing process.
Is Inflammation Affecting Your Quality of Life?
There are two main types of inflammation: Acute and Chronic.
When the body’s cells become damaged in some way, the affected areas release chemicals which activate an inflammatory response. Acute inflammation is an immediate response to trauma and usually occurs within minutes to hours of an injury occurring. It is the body’s short-term reaction to injury.
The signs and symptoms of acute inflammation are obvious, and familiar to us all:
Chronic inflammation can be an ongoing response to either a long-term condition (like arthritis) or it can occur when your body does not ‘turn off’ the initial inflammation and the response is prolonged. The symptoms of chronic inflammation are much more subtle, and can go on for weeks, months or years:
- Fatigue – caused by your immune system being in constant ‘over-drive’.
- Unexplained stiffness or pain in other joints around the body.
- Skin issues – rashes or puffiness.
- Weight gain – inflammation affects the body’s ability to process insulin for regulation of blood sugar.
- Brain fog (also due to altered sugar levels in the blood).
Acute Inflammation is Your Body's Natural Response to Injury
When body cells are damaged, they trigger a chemical reaction called an ‘Inflammatory Cascade’.
The body’s first response in this cascade is to increase blood flow to the area. The extra blood carries naturally occurring hormones and other immune system materials to the injured site. This process is necessary to stop bleeding, clear infection and start repairing damaged tissue or cells. It is what causes the redness we can see soon after injury.
Heat also comes from the increase in activity at the damage site, as a by product of the chemical reactions taking place.
The local blood vessels also dilate and become more permeable to let helpful cells and chemicals out of the blood circulation and into the area that needs repairing. This is why we get swelling – more fluid to the area. The swelling itself can cause local tissues to stretch, and this causes pain as well as the irritation from additional chemicals nearby.
RICE - Easy Treatment For Acute Inflammation
Prompt self-help promotes recovery and reduces immune system over-reaction.
Rest – is important for the first 48-72 hours. This is when inflammation is at its peak and working to heal and repair your injury. Try not to re-aggravate the issue or re-injure the area, as it is already working hard to repair itself.
Ice – ice serves as good pain relief as it provides a change in stimuli – the body feeling ‘the cold’ instead of the heat and swelling, can be quite relieving. Blood vessels respond to cold stimuli by restricting – so this can help minimize further swelling. NB – even though cold encourages he blood vessels to constricting, the materials need to clear and repair the damaged area will still get through.
Compression – applying some pressure or compression can help reduce swelling as it restricts blood flow to the injury.Be careful not to apply compression bandaging too tightly – you do not want to restrict blood flow too much.
Elevation – if possible, elevate the site of injury.
Have You Got Problems With Inflammation?
This post is written from a musculoskeletal viewpoint, and is not designed to cover all causes of inflammation in the body.
Inflammation is something we address with all the time as osteopaths – in nearly every patient. Although useful, and necessary to promote healing in the body, it often requires our skilled management, either because there is too much and it’s stopping you from moving properly, or perhaps we even need to crate some new, local controlled inflammation to kick-start the healing process for an old injury. The bottom line, is that with ThreeSixty, your in good hands.
If you’ve still got questions about inflammation that is bothering you, drop us an email. We’re always happy to help.