Inflammation – Acute (short term) or Chronic (long term)

Friday, May 17, 2019
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What is Inflammation?

When the body’s cells become damaged in some way, the affected areas release chemicals which activate an inflammatory response. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to an injury (strains and sprains) or an irritation (like itchy mosquito bites). It is a necessary part of the body’s natural defense mechanism to injuries, and an important part of healing!

There are two types of inflammation: Acute or Chronic.

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.

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 response. Sometimes, the body can remain in a constant “state of alert” after the injury, and the inflammatory response is prolonged.

How does inflammation happen?

When cells are damaged in the body, they trigger an inflammatory response.This is a ‘chemical reaction’ that happens in our body to help heal from infections or trauma.

  • The first step is increased blood flow to the area. The local blood vessels dilate and become more permeable (let helpful cells and chemicals out of the blood circulation).
  • The increased blood flow carries naturally occurring hormones and other materials (that are part of our immune system) to the injured site.
  • This process is necessary to stop bleeding, clear infection and start repairing damaged tissue or cells.

Four main signs of acute inflammation:

  • Redness: occurs due to the increased blood flow to the injured area (vasodialation)
  • Swelling: sometimes called odema, is due to the increase in fluids to the site of injury.
  • Heat: this is due to the blood vessels widening – allowing an increased blood flow.
  • Pain: the site becomes painful due to the damage to the tissues and the increased pressure in the tissues from the increase of blood flow to the injury.

With joint injuries, it is common for movement to be restricted because of swelling.The increased pressure in the tissues can cause discomfort/pain.

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.
  • Skins 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).

Treatment for cute inflammation:


Rest – is important for the first 48-72hours.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 till 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, for the site of injury.



Even though inflammation is a normal response to injury and plays a key role in healing, it can be very sore. Some people may find relief using anti-inflammatory cream or tablets.It is best to consult your pharmacist or doctor about additional medicine or pain relief options. Naturally occurring anti-inflammatory creams can also be good.

Ask us at the clinic about Natures Nurse cream with arnica – it is excellent for healing, suitable for most skins types, and doesn’t interact with other medications you may be taking.

NB – this article is written from a musculoskeletal viewpoint, and is not designed to cover all causes of inflammation in the body.



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