Your body activates the immune system to help when you are sick, attack bacteria, heal damaged tissues, and so much more. The immune system sends out your body’s first responders, known as inflammatory cells, to help protect you from injury, infection, or disease. Without inflammation naturally occurring in the body thanks to your immune system, you may not be able to heal properly. However, some types of inflammation can be a sign that your body may need help treating or managing something. Certain signs of inflammation in the body can signal that you need to see a doctor for better support. From back pain treatment to managing arthritis pain, here’s what you need to know about inflammation in the body and when your Snellville doctor at AICA Orthopedics can help.
What Is Inflammation?
The three main reasons your body creates an immune response are to address illness, injury, or disease. Viruses, bacteria, or toxic chemicals in the body are considered offending agents that can aggravate your otherwise healthy functioning. When your body recognizes these offending agents, the immune system signals for inflammatory cells to respond to the area. These inflammatory cells create an inflammatory response that traps offending agents like bacteria or a virus, which helps jumpstart the healing process. If you suffer an injury, your body will send inflammatory cells to the area to start healing any injured tissues. Inflammation is a way for the immune system to address an outside danger that may impact healthy functioning in your body.
Acute vs. Chronic Inflammation
The two main types of inflammation are acute and chronic. Acute inflammation refers to the body’s response to a sudden injury, like a paper cut on your palm. To heal a paper cut, your body will send inflammatory cells to your palm and begin the healing process. Acute inflammation will also occur in response to a sudden cold. The immune system will prompt the body to increase blood flow with cells to help fight your infection, which can cause inflammation in your sinuses. Acute inflammation occurs for a short period of time, though it can be a more severe response. Symptoms of acute inflammation appear quickly and typically last for less than two weeks. Acute inflammation is the immune system’s way of restoring your body to its healthy state before the injury or illness occurred.
Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, will develop more slowly, and the inflammatory response is typically less severe. If you develop chronic inflammation, then this inflammation in the body will typically last for six weeks or longer. The unique thing about chronic inflammation is that it may occur even when no injury or illness is present or long after the healing process has ended. With chronic inflammation, your immune system continues to send inflammatory cells to an area of the body where there is no longer any threat. Sometimes these inflammatory cells will even attack your body’s own healthy tissues, like in the case of rheumatoid arthritis. Chronic inflammation can cause mixed signals that lead to your body’s immune system attacking healthy tissues in your joints and causing pain, damage, and joint instability.
What Causes Inflammation?
A sudden injury or illness is the most common cause of acute inflammation in the body. Car accident injuries, sports injuries, and other accidents can cause inflammation as the body jumpstarts the natural healing process. If acute inflammation goes untreated, it can develop into chronic inflammation. There are many common causes of chronic inflammation. Autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus cause the body’s immune system to attack its own healthy tissues, leading to chronic inflammation. Many health conditions and diseases can also cause and perpetuate chronic inflammation. Conditions like asthma, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes all involve chronic inflammation as part of the progression of symptoms. Some lifestyle factors can also make you more susceptible to dealing with chronic inflammation, like a higher body mass index (BMI), too much or too little exercise, chronic stress, excessive alcohol use, and smoking.
Signs & Symptoms of Inflammation
When your body’s immune system responds to an injury, infection, or disease, you may be able to recognize certain signs of inflammation. These are common examples of how you may be able to tell if your body has engaged an immune response leading to inflammation.
One of the most common ways you can recognize inflammation in the body is if you are experiencing any pain. While pain with a sudden injury makes sense, you might be surprised at how a virus like the flu can cause pain. However, inflammation anywhere in the body can disrupt healthy functioning that you may take for granted. For example, the flu can cause inflammation in your nasal passages and airways, which can make it painful and uncomfortable to blow your nose or cough.
Redness in the area is also a sign that inflammation is occurring. You may notice how the area around a cut becomes red as the healing process begins. That is a sign of inflammation and the immune system responding to potential offending agents like bacteria that could lead to infection. Redness can also occur when you don’t have an open wound, like if you have a sprained ankle. You may notice redness or even bruising around the area where the injury occurred.
If you see redness, then you may also notice the area feels warm to the touch. Heat is also a sign of inflammation in the body. An injury or infection will prompt the body to send more blood flow to the area, which leads to inflammation. People who deal with arthritis, an inflammation of tissues in the joints, may notice their affected joints feel warm to the touch when their arthritis flares up.
Inflammation and swelling are terms that are sometimes used interchangeably, though they do actually refer to two different responses in the body. When part of the body becomes inflamed, it can cause the body to retain fluids in the area, which is known as swelling. Swelling most commonly occurs as a result of inflammation in a certain area. For example, if you sprain your wrist, then the immune system will send inflammatory cells to address the injury. The inflammatory response to address your sprained wrist could cause swelling in the area.
When the immune system response occurs, your muscles and other soft tissues will receive an influx of blood flow and inflammatory cells. Chronic inflammation can lead to stiffness, especially in the joints. Stiffness can also occur with acute inflammation as well. For example, a car accident injury like whiplash may lead to strained neck muscles. The damage to your muscles and the body’s inflammatory response can lead to tightened muscles that can start to feel stiff.
If you are running a fever, then that is your body’s way of signaling that inflammation is occurring. The immune system may signal for the body’s temperature to rise to help fight the infection. When inflammatory cells start flowing through the body, then a fever can be a natural response, especially to a virus or infection.
You might feel extremely tired if your body is fighting an infection or you are recovering from a recent injury. The body is working hard with its immune response and kickstarting the body’s natural healing responses. While your body works hard, it can go into overdrive and leave you feeling low energy because those efforts are focused elsewhere. Prolonged, chronic stress can also cause fatigue and stimulate an inflammatory response in the body.
How Inflammation Can Affect You
In addition to these common signs and symptoms of inflammation, you may also notice other ways inflammation has affected you. While it is not entirely abnormal to wake up feeling stiff, if you experience stiff, achy joints every morning for weeks at a time, then this could be a sign that something more serious is going on. Older aged adults may dismiss signs of inflammation because they seem like typical responses to growing older and general wear and tear on the body. However, if you notice a slow and steady increase in uncomfortable symptoms, then talk to your doctor about the potential of inflammation occurring and what the potential causes might be. Inflammation can lead to gastrointestinal issues like gas, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation. Chronic inflammation can also make you more susceptible to catching lots of colds or bugs because your immune system isn’t functioning properly. Chronic skin issues like eczema or psoriasis can also be a signal you are dealing with chronic inflammation.
Treatment Options for Inflammation
There are several different options for treating inflammation. The best treatment option for you will depend on what is causing your acute or chronic inflammation. Here are examples of inflammation treatments and how they can help you.
In some cases, you may be able to manage inflammation with at-home remedies. One at-home remedy for inflammation involves applying cold compresses to the affected area. A cold compress will shrink blood vessels and reduce the amount of blood flow to the area. Because inflammation after an injury can make your pain worse, using an ice pack or cold compress can help reduce your discomfort. Resting is also key to letting your body fight an infection or begin the natural healing process for an injury.
Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter medications to help address inflammation. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen help to lower inflammation, which can also manage your pain symptoms. You can also talk to your doctor about supplements you can take to help fight chronic inflammation, like vitamin A, vitamin C, or zinc.
An anti-inflammatory diet can help you manage chronic inflammation. Choose foods that have anti-inflammatory properties, like leafy greens and oily fish. Add more spinach and kale or salmon and mackerel to your diet to help fight inflammation. Other foods with anti-inflammatory properties include tomatoes and olive oils. You can also avoid certain foods that can increase inflammation, like fried foods, carbohydrates, and sugar.
You can work with a chiropractor for long-term and natural solutions to addressing both acute and chronic inflammation. Chiropractors can provide you with a personalized treatment plan to help you heal from a recent injury or manage a health condition. No matter what is causing inflammation in your body, a Snellville chiropractor can help by addressing the root cause. Chiropractic adjustments to the spine and joints can help restore healthy functioning in the area so that your body gets all the nutrients it needs to effectively heal and recover. Chiropractors use non-invasive and drug-free approaches to help manage and reduce inflammation in the body.
You can also work with a physical therapist to help with acute or chronic inflammation. A Snellville physical therapist will walk you through stretches and exercises that can help reduce inflammation. If you are recovering from an injury, then a physical therapist will help you regain strength and mobility while reducing symptoms like pain and inflammation. A chronic condition that causes inflammation may also respond well to certain physical activities and stretching techniques. Learn how physical therapy can help improve your healthy functioning and reduce inflammation and other uncomfortable symptoms in your body.
No matter what is causing your inflammation, our team of doctors at AICA Orthopedics in Snellville is here to help. Our Snellville doctors include orthopedists, neurologists, chiropractors, and physical therapists who work together to offer individualized and comprehensive care. We specialize in treating car accident injuries, sports injuries, pain management, and more. Visit AICA Orthopedics in Snellville to get started with one of our doctors and learn more about what is causing your inflammation. We will work with you to create a personalized plan of treatment to address your symptoms as well as the root cause of inflammation in your body. Don’t let ongoing pain, swelling, or stiffness keep you from your regular routines and activities you enjoy. Our team of experts can help you experience lasting relief from chronic inflammation.