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What is Inflammation?


Inflammation is a complex biological response that occurs in the body’s tissues as a response to harmful stimuli such as pathogens, damaged cells or irritants (Ferrero 2007).

The inflammatory response is a defense mechanism designed to protect us from infection and injury.  Inflammation often gives rise to sensations of pain due to the; pressure the increased fluid within a space puts on nerve endings and/or the chemical irritation produced by the process.  Discomfort is usually temporary and settles as the inflammatory response passes.


We need inflammation in order to heal.  The purpose of the process is to localise and eliminate the injurious agent and to remove damaged tissue components so that the body can begin to heal.  The inflammatory response involves changes in blood flow, an increase in permeability of blood vessels, and the migration of fluid, proteins, and white blood cells (leukocytes) from the circulation to the site of tissue damage.  An inflammatory response that lasts only a few days is called acute inflammation, while a response of longer duration is referred to as chronic inflammation.  Inflammation in excess can cause harm.  Tissue destruction can occur when the regulatory mechanisms of the inflammatory response are defective or the ability to clear damaged tissue and foreign substances is impaired.

In this blog we focus on the inflammatory response to injury and chronic disease.


Symptoms of Inflammation

The four cardinal signs of inflammation:

  1. Redness – caused by dilation of the small local blood vessels
  2. Heat - from increased blood flow through the area and is experienced only in peripheral parts of the body such as the skin
  3. Swelling – due to the accumulation of fluid outside the blood vessels
  4. Pain – from distortion of tissues ad chemical components of inflammation

A fifth consequence of inflammation is the loss of function of the inflamed area, a feature noted by German pathologist Rudolf Virchow in the 19th century. Loss of function may result from pain that inhibits mobility or from severe swelling that prevents movement in the area.


Trauma to the body causing damage to the tissue, for example from a tackle, collision or from an awkward fall will begin the process of inflammation. However, quite commonly tissue injury is as a result of overuse, also known as microtrauma.

Chronic Inflammation in Joints

Have you ever noticed your joints are more sore in cold weather or more stiff in the morning?  This is a sign of chronic inflammation and can be associated with osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease causing joint pain and stiffness and can affect any joint. People often notice it’s harder to get out of bed in the morning or that they experience joint soreness after adopting static postures such as sitting for prolonged periods.

Although osteoarthritis cannot be cured… It CAN be helped!  At Resolve Physiotherapy we can help alleviate the pain from the inflammation, improve joint mobility and provide exercises to strengthen the joint – stronger joints are known to degenerate more slowly than weaker joints!  We will advise how best to manage your arthritic joints long term.

Muscle Soreness

After training at a level/intensity that you are not used to, you will notice some soreness in the muscles for up to 72 hours.  Soreness occurs due to muscle damage (not all damage is negative!) especially following eccentric exercise and plyometrics.

‘DOMS’ (Delayed onset muscle soreness) appears to be a product of inflammation caused by microscopic tears in the connective tissue elements that sensitize nociceptors and thereby heighten the sensations of pain.

To improve your recovery after training you should try to train consistently and gradually increase the intensity of your training on a steady schedule.  Ice baths after training for 15minutes will aid muscle repair.  Foam rolling each muscle group, twice for one minute each can help reduce soreness.  Regular sports massage after training sessions help reduce inflammation and lactic acid build up.  At Resolve Physiotherapy our sports therapists provide sports massage treatments to help prepare you for and recover after training sessions.


Nutrition to Fight Inflammation:

CAAT anti cancer diet

Omega - 3

Found in oily fish such as mackerel, herring or for ve

getarians in plant oils such as walnut, algal oil, flaxseed oil and hemp oil.  Taking fish oils daily as a supplement can help if you struggle to eat a diet rich in the above foods.

Always consult a nutritionist before taking supplements

Optimal magnesium levels are linked to lower levels of inflammation which in a study of chronic kidney disease patients also linked to lower death rate (King 2009).

Magnesium can be found in dark leafy greens such as raw spinach or nuts and seeds.   It can also be taking as a supplement.  Magnesium can be taken trans-dermally (through the skin) you could try putting magnesium flakes in the bath after a workout.


Branch-chained amino acids are a group of three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine.  Found in high concentrations within dairy, meat and eggs, these amino acids are renowned for their role in muscle growth and strength promotion. Body builders and other athletes significantly benefit from their anti-inflammatory properties. These amino acids reduce recovery times following intense workouts, reducing muscle fatigue and breakdown.
You don’t need to be a bodybuilder to benefit!  Research has suggested that BCAA supplements can help reduce inflammation in patients suffering from liver disease 7diabetes and depression, amongst others. While research continues into possible treatments for chronic inflammation using BCAAs, the preliminary results are positive.

Non essesnital Amino Acids

Glutamine, abbreviated as Q and Glycine (G) , are non-essential amino acid involved in an array of biochemical processes both with anti inflammatory properties.  Most animal proteins are rich in Q, along with beans, spinach, cabbage and parsley. Foods rich in G include poultry and lima beans.

In addition to ensuring an adequate intake of BCAAs, Q, G magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids, there are other supplements that can help combat inflammation. Vitamin D, zinc and curcumin (a nutrient within the spice turmeric) are all particularly beneficial. Regularly taking dietary supplements containing these natural anti-inflammatory agents can combat the deficiency that most people experience.

Probiotics can make a big difference in fighting inflammation. For many people, a combination of inactivity, poor diet and stress can lead to an unhealthy gut.  Chronic inflammation is often linked to an unbalanced gut flora. By detoxifying the body with a high potency, good quality probotic, it’s possible to start effectively treating inflammation.

Just like the treatment of most physical ailments, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is very important. You can have a positive impact on your health through drinking plenty of water, exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep, and avoiding stress whenever possible.


If you need help or advice with anything discussed above – call Resolve Physiotherapy on 01212930237 and we will be happy to help.


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