At the Athletic Training Institute, we get many questions about what inflammation is because it is a focal point of our practice for injury prevention, athletic and individual development, and optimal health.
For starters, what is inflammation? Inflammation is the body’s immune system response to injury with the goal to protect tissues and initiate the healing process.
Just because it is a part of the body’s natural healing process, does not mean all inflammation is good. Some inflammatory processes are beneficial, leading to the dilution of toxins, blocking antibodies, increasing delivery of nutrients and oxygen, and stimulation of immune responses. Conversely, inflammatory responses can be harmful, resulting in destruction of healthy tissues when prolonged. A powerful example of this is that your blood vessels shrink and less oxygen gets to cells, leading to a domino effect of increasing inflammation in the body, as cells does not get the oxygen they need over a period of time.
The effects of inflammation are closely tied to the injury affecting the body, and the result can either be acute or chronic. Acute inflammation is characterized as a short-term process following injury, typically occurring in minutes or hours and lasting a few days. Typical signs of acute inflammation include redness and warmth of localized area, swelling, pain, loss of function, and fever. Chronic inflammation is characterized as inflammation over time, lasting weeks, months, or even years due to persistent infections like tuberculosis, or immune mediated diseases as in autoimmune diseases.
The various causes of inflammation are also important. The presence of any of these agents can induce inflammatory responses:
Biological agents: viruses, bacteria, fungal organisms, parasites, etc.
Chemical agents: poisons and toxins.
Physical agents: heat, cold, radiation, trauma- broken arm, tissue injury.
Immune reactions: autoimmune diseases (response to one’s own antigens) and immune responses like allergens.
Lifestyle: lack of sleep, poor nutrition.
Determining the underlying cause of inflammation helps us set a path to health. Do you have high levels of inflammation because of lack of sleep? How about poor nutrition or high stress? Is it acute or chronic? Perhaps it Is related to how well you move. Joints not moving properly because of muscular inhibition contributes to inflammation.
Come visit the Athletic Training Institute and see how our approach helps identify the cause of inflammation and correct the problem for proper progression back to wellness.
Sources 1-Robbins and Cotran’s Pathologic Basis of Disease, 9th Edition, 2015