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What Is Inflammation? Causes, Effects, and Potential Treatment

July 27th, 2022 | 4 min. read

What Is Inflammation? Causes, Effects, and Potential Treatment
Chris Brandt

Chris Brandt

Licensed Physical Therapist, PT, DPT // Director of Marketing and Sales // Certified Dry Needling Specialist // EW Motion Therapy Homewood

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Inflammation is perfectly normal and essential to the healing process. You could be fighting off an illness or infection, or you could be healing a wound. But if you continue to have increased inflammation after the initial healing, that could indicate a more complicated issue. So what do you do? How can you decrease inflammation? 

 

While some autoimmune disorders and other health conditions may cause inflammation, there are still some things you can do in your daily life to better understand how to decrease inflammation and improve your health overall. While it is best to talk to your doctor about the specific inflammation-related symptoms you are experiencing, physical therapy might be a great solution if you have inflammation-related joint problems or issues related to your movement. We help our patients move better every day at EW Motion Therapy, and we always get to know them as a person first, not just a condition. Even if you choose not to work with us, we still want to discuss why keeping excess inflammation at bay is essential. 

 

This article discusses what inflammation is, some potential causes, and how it can affect your body over time. With this information, you can seek the treatment you need and feel better.

 

What is inflammation? 

First, inflammation is a normal bodily process. When a harmful foreign substance enters your body, like a virus, your body deploys white blood cells to attack the foreign body and begin the healing process. Many of us experience acute inflammation when we have a cut or a scrape - the four cardinal signs are pain/tenderness, swelling, heat, and redness. This is the body sending white blood cells to heal your wounds, which is entirely normal. 

 

If, however, your body continues to send out white blood cells when there is no injury or present danger, your inflammation may have become chronic. You may experience fever, joint pain, rashes, and increased fatigue. Depending on where in your body the inflammation occurs, it can manifest as a few different health conditions, especially if you have a genetic predisposition. For example, if you have more inflammation in your skin and are genetically predisposed, you may develop psoriasis. 

 

What can cause inflammation? 

A few different conditions can cause chronic inflammation in your body, including autoimmune disorders in which your body attacks healthy tissue. It could also occur from being exposed to toxins or having an increased buildup of them, as well as leaving acute inflammation untreated. Additionally, certain foods can increase inflammation, specifically processed foods, and sugar. 

 

A few things can also put you at risk of increased inflammation, including smoking, obesity, stress, and sleeping disorders. Since these risk factors are as significant as autoimmune disorders or other chronic conditions, it is imperative for your health to keep these in line.

 

How can inflammation affect your body over time? 

With acute inflammation, you may experience those four cardinal signs mentioned previously, and if swelling occurs in a joint area, it may make it harder to move that joint as it heals. The effects of chronic inflammation can vary, depending on where it is in your body. Wherever it is, you can almost guarantee it is not doing anything productive - it may even be attacking joints or affecting your blood vessels and nerves. 

 

Arthritis can be an example of increased inflammation in your joints, but many other body areas can be affected. If the inflammation is in your lungs, it could cause asthma and COPD. Inflammation in your brain could cause depression and memory issues and put you at a higher risk for conditions like Alzheimer’s and MS. Inflammation in your kidneys can restrict blood flow, causing edema and hypertension. Wherever the inflammation occurs, you will likely experience more fatigue overall due to your body working overtime. 

 

How can you decrease inflammation? 

Now you know more about inflammation and how it can affect different areas of your body. Suppose you are actively trying to reduce inflammation in your body. It can be easier to address acute inflammation first to ensure your body is healing and does not progress to the chronic stage. Your first instinct may be to grab an anti-inflammatory medication, but those can sometimes disrupt the natural healing process your body must go through, so check with your doctor before starting one. Keeping your diet in check is incredibly helpful if you have a condition that causes excess inflammation, and better sleep habits can also help. 

 

While inflammation is a natural bodily process, in excess, it can cause pain and create pressure on nerves and joints from a buildup of fluid. In these cases, movement is often medicine. A physical therapist can be a great professional to visit if you need expert advice on how to move better with inflammation - our physical therapists do this every day for our clients at EW Motion Therapy. If you are interested in working with us, answer the questions in our Program Match Tool to see which of our programs best fits your needs.


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