• imgs
    Aging Well Partners
  • Sep 24
  • 2 min

Inflammation: What It’s Telling You

Inflammation:  What It’s Telling You


Seems like inflammation is the “hot” (see what I did there) new word.   You hear about medications, creams, ointments, essential oils, and supplements that work to reduce inflammation.  So, what is inflammation anyway and should we be concerned about it?

Inflammation is your body’s response to an injury, infection, or illness.  Without getting into too much of the science and physiology, when you hurt yourself – let’s say you sprain your ankle – your body has an immediate inflammatory response to the injury.  A split second after the injury occurs, your body sends a variety of cells to the area of injury (the ankle joint) and those cells have three major functions:  rid the body of whatever caused the injury, dispose of the damaged cells, and signal other types of cells to come in and begin the repair process.

There are five main symptoms of inflammation:  pain, swelling, heat, redness, and loss of function.  In the case of a sprained ankle, the rapid response of inflammation in the joint area also helps to immobilize that joint so we (hopefully) don’t cause further injury to it.  Inflammation can either be acute – like in the case of a sprained ankle – where the injury happens, inflammation occurs, and the body begins to repair itself, all in the blink of an eye. The inflammation may remain in the area for days or weeks but will eventually resolve.  Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is inflammation that lasts for several months or even years.  Allergies can be an example of chronic inflammation while factors like obesity and smoking promote – or retain – chronic inflammation in the body.

In the case of our sprained ankle, our first line of defense is ice, elevation, and immobilizing the joint to prevent further injury.  The cause of the inflammation will often dictate the proper course of action for treatment….we can’t necessarily put our allergies on ice, right?  The cold will reduce the amount of inflammatory cells flowing into the injured area while elevating the injured ankle helps “drain” the area of inflammation, essentially the fluid being made by our cells in response to the injury.  The treatment for chronic inflammation may include prescription medications, eating plenty of anti-inflammatory foods while cutting inflammation-causing foods from our diet, exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and managing stress.  There are many over-the-counter supplements and herbs that claim to have anti-inflammatory properties; to this I say, “do your homework”.  If it sounds too good to be true….well, you know the rest.  Talk to your clinician if you have acute or chronic inflammation; they can help you devise the best treatment plan.