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But what is inflammation?

You may hear your Physical Therapist, Medical Doctor, or the general public talking about inflammation in the body…but what is inflammation?

Straight from Merriam-Webster, “inflammation is a local response to cellular injury that is marked by capillary dilatation, leukocytic infiltration, redness, heat, and pain that serves as a mechanism initiating the elimination of noxious agents and of damaged tissue”.

More simply put, inflammation is your body’s way of trying to protect and then start healing itself. Inflammation needs to occur in order for infections to clear and for wounds to heal, however, if inflammation lasts too long then it can actually cause harm to the body.

It is important to distinguish between acute and chronic inflammation.

Acute inflammation increases in severity quickly and normally only last for a few days. Examples could be immediately after twisting an ankle or cutting your finger, appendicitis or a sore throat. Medical News Today describes the symptoms of acute inflammation of the skin following the acronym “PRISH”:

Pain = the inflamed area is likely to be painful to the touch because chemicals that stimulate nerve endings are released and this increases the sensitivity in that area

Redness = the inflamed area is likely to be red because the capillaries in the area are filled with more blood than normal; capillaries need to enlarge so that fluids/proteins can move between the blood and cells more easily

Immobility = the inflamed area may become less functional/mobile

Swelling = the inflamed area may become built up with fluid

Heat = the inflamed area may become warm to the touch because more blood flows to the area

Chronic or long-term inflammation can persist for months to years. Different cells are involved…instead of healing the body, these cells release toxins which cause additional harm to the surrounding tissues and other structures.

Chronic inflammation can present as fatigue, mouth sores, chest pain, abdominal pain, fever, rash and joint pain. Some examples would be Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and asthma. Medical News Today states that chronic inflammation can result from the following:

  • Failure to eliminate the cause of acute inflammation
  • Autoimmune disorders which attack normal healthy tissue, mistaking it for a pathogen (bacteria, virus, or other microorganisms)
  • Exposure to a particular irritant over a long period of time (ex: industrial chemical)

A very important thing to note is that if inflammation is not treated appropriately, it can potentially cause additional problems such as atherosclerosis (plaque build-up inside arteries), some cancers, hay fever, and more.

In many circumstances, Physical Therapy can help to control acute inflammation and to work towards eliminating chronic inflammation. A physical therapist can aid in managing pain caused by inflammation while also taking a look at the bigger picture – what is causing this inflammation and what else has been affected because of this inflammation? Treatment plans can vary greatly and must be customized to each individual, however, potential treatment could include therapeutic exercises, manual therapies and/or use of modalities, such as laser therapy. Overall, the major goals of these interventions are to reduce swelling/pain, increase strength/range of motion, and encourage proper function. If you are suffering from inflammation, Physical Therapy can play an important role in getting you back to being you.

Call to schedule an appointment today in order to determine the best course of treatment based on your specific needs.

References:

Nordqvist, C. (2017, November 24). “Everything you need to know about inflammation.” Medical News Today. Retrieved from
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/248423.php.

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