The Good Side of Inflammation

Inflammation gets a bad reputation. So bad to where many practitioners blame the inflammatory process on pain and do everything they can to eliminate it!  The problem is, we blame a symptom for a problem, and that symptom is actually present for a good reason!

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is the body’s response to perceived tissue injury or infection.  Once a message is sent from local nerves to the brain that something may be wrong in a region, the brain responds by sending a variety of things to the area including enzymes and immune cells to break down infection or damaged tissue, and valuable nutrients for local cells to begin the rebuilding process if necessary.  Some of these cells may even increase local temperature in order to kill any possible infection. Thus leading to the heat you may be feeling in the region, similar to a fever.

The fluid containing all of these healing helpers is actually very viscous. More so than your blood, and to boot is sent through a separate system known as your lymphatic system. One of the main differences between the lymphatic and the cardiovascular system is the lack of a central pump like the heart. This means it relies almost entirely on local muscle movement underneath our skin to keep if moving and flowing well.  Typically if we are in pain (often the region we had inflammation in the first place), we don’t want to move that area, giving us an increase in the amount of fluid retained which can put excessive pressure on the painful region, causing more pain, and which may result in more inflammation!

Taking Action

So, what do we do?!  Interestingly, we are learning that the answer may not be anti-inflammatory medication and ice as we always thought. These measures can overly reduce that inflammation to the point we are not getting the good cells and nutrients we want!  The fluid we have there does provide a benefit in healing. We just don’t want it to stay there forever and build up pressure!  Gentle active range of motion therapies and light compression like runner’s socks and kinesiotape can allow inflammation to flow more easily to an area without building up to painful levels, and actually allow us to get back to normal faster!

Inflammation, interestingly, is not always the result of direct tissue injury, but a response to perceived possible injury.  Pain is often a response by the brain to take into account the perceived amount of strain to a region and help us stop the movement earlier.  However, unexplained or sudden pain can cause an inflammatory response even in the absence of true tissue damage!  Thankfully, gentle movement and progressive return to normal activity can help the body reset after an input like this. Also will help decrease and should eventually eliminate this inflammatory response!

Turns out, the body really does some amazing stuff when allowed to, and our normal motions can be curative factors!