I want to elaborate on an important process that is essential to healing in the human body – inflammation. As I have moved further into my healing series I realized that it would be beneficial to take the time to fully describe the process and its role in healing.
First, why is inflammation important? Lack of inflammation leads to slow or absent healing, too much leads to poor tissue nutrition and pain. As with so many physical process, balance is a key factor in good function. In the proper degree and duration inflammation is an essential for healing. However, the constant tax on our system from chronic inflammation, and the changes it creates inside our bodies’, appears to increase our risk of cancer, heart disease, clogged arteries and autoimmune disorders.
Now, into the meat of things. What is inflammation? What trigger it? What causes its visible signs – heat, redness, swelling and pain?
Any event that the body perceives as potentially harmful is the trigger of inflammation. Local cells begin secreting chemicals that create the inflammatory process. Theses substances sensitize tissues, creating more pain and trigger vasodilation, the enlargement of blood vessels, which does two things. One, increases the amount of blood that can arrive at the area by increasing the diameter of the carrying vessels. Two, increases the size of the gaps in your vessel wall, allowing substances that are not usually able to pass out of the blood to enter the tissue. This ensures the nutrition, oxygen and immune components that the body requires to heal can enter the tissue. Vasodilation will lead to redness, heat and swelling common with inflammation.
As the blood cells, plasma proteins, platelets, fluid and healing substances flow out of the enlarged vessels swelling will occur. This is a simple physical requirement of all that extra material in the tissue. Clinically, we call this edema. Before we can see edema there is, on average, 30% more fluid in our tissue than is normal. The problem with extreme increases in the amount of fluid is that our cells are fed by diffusion and the farther apart our cells the longer energy takes to get to them. This chain reaction leads to the possibility for tissue injury or death from excess swelling. Concern over the risk of exaggerated swelling is one of the reasons ice and anti-inflammatories are often recommended post injury. Both decreased nutrition and increased pressure on surrounding structures can create pain. Occasionally the pain can be severe enough to inhibit function in the area.
The process of inflammation is generally self-limiting and usually resolves within 72 hours of the injury. Infection, re-injury, or chronic conditions in the body, may elongate this process.
There is the process of inflammation in the body. As we move forward with this healing series hopefully this helps you understand this vital portion of healing.