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Inflammation is the body’s natural response to tissue damage. This could be from physical trauma, surgery, intense heat, infection or irritating chemicals. It is the way in which our natural defence cells leave the blood stream and enter the injury site. These cells can then prevent the spread of damage, dispose of cell debris, and prepare the site for repair. The inflammatory process is started by the action of chemical “alarms” that are released into the fluid between our cells.

The four obvious signs of inflammation are redness, heat, swelling and pain. The swelling can also lead to restricted movement at joints.

The redness and heat are caused by increased blood flow to the damaged area. This blood brings nutrients, oxygen, and defence cells to the injury site. The defence cells help to clean up the area whilst the nutrients and oxygen maintain the health of undamaged cells.

These “alarm” chemicals also increase the permeability of local blood capillaries. Consequently, fluid containing proteins such as clotting factors and antibodies, seeps from the bloodstream into the tissue spaces. This fluid is the cause of the local swelling that in turn, presses on nearby nerve endings, resulting in feelings of pain.

Although this swelling may appear to be detrimental to the healing process, the entry of protein-rich fluids into the tissue spaces helps to dilute any harmful substances that may be present. It also brings in large quantities of oxygen and nutrients to the area that are necessary for the repair process. Thirdly, it allows the entry of clotting proteins which form a gel like mesh around the injured area and prevents the spread of bacteria into the adjacent tissues. This gel also forms a scaffolding for the permanent repair.

After a few days, the obvious signs of inflammation will calm down and gentle movement will be encouraged. Swelling and redness will diminish which should reduce pain levels. The body will move onto the repair stage and you will be able to play a more active role in your recovery and rehabilitation.

If you want any discuss how massage and gentle exercise can help you to recover from any surgery or injury, please get in touch.