When inflammation is good:
That warming sensation when you twist your ankle or smash your finger in the door jamb or tweak just about any tendon or muscle you’ve got (your neck, shoulder, back elbows, wrists—head, shoulder, knees and toes!) isn’t for nothing: that inflamed feeling is your body recognizing injury and pain, and sending help to fix it.
Blood travels to injured or infected areas of the body for a reason—this is the process by which the body’s white blood cells, the protectors within our veins, travel to the place of injury or infection and start the cleanup process. Some ice to keep the swelling down and your comfort up is all that needs to be done in some situations; most of the time you need your body to react this way. Like a heating pad that applies warmth to a stiff muscle, sometimes it’s good to be inflamed.
When inflammation goes too far:
But sometimes it comes to serious, chronic inflammation: with something like arthritis, your body’s immune system triggers an inflammatory response when there are no foreign invaders to fight off. When an immune response is unhealthy, symptoms can range from discomfort to damage that the body causes to its own tissues and organs.
Aging itself can cause inflammation, a 2013 Yale University study found that as we age our immune system produces higher levels of inflammation, and specifically that the immune sensor Nlrp3 triggers an increase in age related inflammation and results in a loss of bone density, insulin-resistance, and cognition.
Inflammation symptoms include:
- Swollen joints that can be warm to the touch
- Joint stiffness
- Joint pain
- Loss of joint function
When the symptoms of inflammation are so severe that they impair your mobility and your quality of life, that is when you need help regulating what is otherwise an important part of your body’s healing mechanisms.