Inflammation: good or bad?

  • #1
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If inflammation is a healing process then why do we try to suppress it via ice and drugs (ibuprofen). After a sports injury everyone says ice it and take an ibuprofen. Doesn't the body know what is best?
 

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  • #2
Evo
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Take my broken arm, for example, the doctor wanted to reduce inflamation and swelling to minimize pressure on veins and nerves, which could cause more damage.
 
  • #3
Monique
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Inflammation can be both good and bad, depending on the situation. In the case of an injury you want to keep the swelling down, so icing will be good. Sometimes it is recommended to keep the injury warm, but I think someone with more expertise will need to address this question.
 
  • #4
turbo
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Swelling and tightness from inflammation is likely an adaptation that helps immobilize joints, etc, and prevent further damage. Combating the inflammation can improve circulation and aid healing, as well as reduce pain.
 
  • #5
baywax
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If inflammation is a healing process then why do we try to suppress it via ice and drugs (ibuprofen). After a sports injury everyone says ice it and take an ibuprofen. Doesn't the body know what is best?
This is a good question and it ties in with a recent "discovery" that shows how the Rhino Virus (cold) is not the symptoms it causes, ie: runny nose, sneezing and packed up sinuses. These are functions of the immune response to the presence of the virus. I've always advocated riding these symptoms out because I knew it was the body's response to a viral invasion. When you quell the symptoms of an immune response you are basically prolonging the effects the virus is causing.

With the inflammation of a tissue or muscle etc... its slightly different.

When inflammation occurs, chemicals from the body’s white blood cells are released into the blood or affected tissues in an attempt to rid the body of foreign substances. This release of chemicals increases the blood flow to the area and may result in redness and warmth. Some of the chemicals cause leakage of fluid into the tissues, resulting in swelling. The inflammatory process may stimulate nerves and cause pain.
http://my.clevelandclinic.org/symptoms/Inflammation/hic_Inflammation_What_You_Need_To_Know.aspx

So, when you've cut your finger you will notice a swelling around the cut and that it is pulsing with blood that is probably carrying a large percentage of white blood cells in relation to the platelets. These T cells (wbc) are very active and search out any infection in the area which they destroy or engulf. This can be painful because the swelling caused by this immune response is testing the elasticity of the tissues in the area.

Often our immune system will react in the same way to broken bones, strained muscles and in extreme cases autoimmune responses will attack the nerves in a case of mistaken identity.

In the case of a cut, I let the swelling and inflammation (immune response) carry its course of treatment. In the case of muscle injury, the swelling is an autoimmune response that may not be necessary and actually complicates the injury. Careful use of Advil and Icing I think is appropriate. The problem here is that when the pain surrounding the injury is masked... you are at a high risk of re-injuring the area because you are not feeling the pain of movement.

So mask the pain, (which is there for a reason... its letting you know there is an injury problem) but do it when you are conscious so that you don't over step the boundaries your body is giving you when it inflames the area and causes this pain.
 
  • #6
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yeah, inflammation is complicated. transient inflammation seems to be good. for example, a heavy resistance workout will cause immediate inflammation. and if you block it with a high dose of painkillers, you also block protein synthesis.

even this is not cut and dry. in young athletes taking a whole day's dose of pain killers at once, muscle hypertrophy is blocked. but other studies done on older people who take pain killers as directed on the label ad libitum throughout the day, their exercise performance improves.
 
  • #7
Moonbear
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Take my broken arm, for example, the doctor wanted to reduce inflamation and swelling to minimize pressure on veins and nerves, which could cause more damage.
That's a perfect example. SOME inflammation can speed up the healing, but too much can hinder it. You have to find the right amount, basically.

You're really only supposed to ice an injury shortly after it happens, and that's to minimize the extent of the injury and bleeding. Later, you switch to heat to promote healing.
 
  • #8
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I think it's like some people have basically said. It's good to have inflammation...to a point. In the "wild" your body either wins or loses the battle with the infection. Therefore it goes overboard. In some diseases your bodies inflammatory response is of questionable value per se (e.g. arthridites).
 

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