Inflammation is defined as what occurs to your body when the immune system feels that there is a trauma, a foreign entity, or something wrong inside your body.  Sometimes the onset of inflammation can be immediate whereas in other instances you can feel the discomfort coming on.  

Not exactly the most wonderful feeling in the world to encounter, however, it is an indication that something is amiss in your body that needs to be addressed.   Inflammation can be caused by a number of issues and affect many parts of your body overall, ranging from mild to more severe symptoms.

What Causes Inflammation?

To understand the signs of inflammation, you should first and foremost know what the cause of it is.  There are instances where there is indeed an issue in your body that sends it into overdrive and inflammation ensues.  There are also instances where the inflammation simply occurs without any infection occurring such as when arthritis takes place.

Acute Inflammation – Acute inflammation is essentially a short term issue.  Typically caused by an injury or illness, this form of inflammation is brought on suddenly without warning and can last a few days.  Sometimes outwardly noticeable symptoms may not even appear, the only indication would be fever or feeling weakness.  Anything lasting longer than a few days on the scale of several weeks would be then considered subacute inflammation.   

Chronic Inflammation –  When your symptoms are more long-standing and do not seem to go away after several months, you have what is known as chronic inflammation.  This condition can be caused by a number of varying ailments such as arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD), allergies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), psoriasis, or rheumatoid arthritis.  Severity of symptoms varies depending on how long the issue has been occurring and various other factors regarding your body’s health.  Reactions to inflammation also are a result of just how each individual’s body is different due to genetics and levels of sensitivity.  Weight, age, exposure to irritants, and an unhealthy diet can also affect the way the inflammation flare ups appear.  Determining where the inflammation stems from is a critical step in mapping out a treatment plan to curb the more distressing symptoms.   

a picture of man's back and his spine showing lower back pain

The Classic Signs of Inflammation

There are key telltale signs that inflammation has occurred in your body that you should be aware of in order to properly manage the pain.  

Pain –  When anything goes awry in the body, the initial reaction it will have is to signal the brain to have you feel pain of some sort.  The only way you will know if there is an issue within is by feeling this physical trigger.  It can be a targeted pain to a specific joint or body part and will feel painful to the touch or just an overarching pain.   

Redness – Excess blood flow to the affected area will make the capillaries appear more prominently thus the redness.  The body is extremely intelligent and this is yet another physical way it shows you that there is something amiss that needs to be addressed.  

Swelling – Fluid within the body builds up, causing swelling to occur.  It can be noticeable in the hands, feet, and ankles denoted by puffiness, stretched, and shiny skin.  You may also feel pain in the specific parts where the swelling is occurring.  One of the most tell-tale signs of inflammation would be the appearance of swelling.  

Fever/Heat – The extra blood flow to the affected region can cause a warm sensation when touched.  Likewise, fever can also set in, making the body temperature increase overall due to the immune system signaling that there is a problem to be attended to.   

Loss of Function – When the immune system is trying to navigate the issues within you, there could be a loss of many bodily functions including but not limited to difficulty moving a joint, breathing (or) sensing smell. Fatigue sets in and doing basic functions such as simply walking or standing up may be a challenge.  

Not to say that these signs are the only indication of inflammation occurring in the body, there are several others as well.  If you happen to be experiencing one or several of these symptoms simultaneously, it would be a fair assumption that inflammation is happening.  

These specific indications are very much aligned with how inflammation materializes however, some of the symptoms could be diagnosed as other problems.  

It is always best to consult with a medical professional before making any extreme treatment plans to ensure you are fully aware of what form you are dealing with.

Inflammation Relief

The good news is, relief is around the corner.  You don’t have to continue suffering before or between visits to your physician’s office, there are plenty of ways to assist in mitigating the symptoms for you at home. 

Topical Pain Relief Creams/Ointments/Gels – These forms of treatment are easy to access, provide targeted, and best of all instant relief.  No matter the severity of your pain, a pain cream or ointment contains highly effective ingredients that can soothe discomfort in the blink of an eye.  Look out for products featuring known naturally derived pain-relieving ingredients like trolamine salicylate. Using topical pain relief is also non-habit forming and can be used as often as you would like or feel necessary to help temporarily alleviate pain associated with inflammation. While this won’t target the inflammation itself, sometimes a little pain relief is just something you need at the end of a long day. 

Weight Loss – Maintaining a healthy weight for your body size is vital in mitigating inflammation.  Depending on the root of your pain, chronic conditions such as arthritis will become less severe as the joints have less stress on them from body weight.  Going hand in hand with losing weight would be exercising.  Even if the cause of inflammation is due to excessive or high impact activity, keeping your muscles activated will allow circulation of the blood around your body.  Blood flow is key in allowing oxygen as well as other minerals and vitamins within it to reach areas in which swelling has occurred.  There is not a need to be on an aggressive fitness routine, even regular but low impact movement will be a huge benefit if you are seeking a more long term approach to pain management.  

Stretching – Along the same lines as being physically active as much as possible, stretching is likewise an easy activity that can be incorporated into your routine that will aid in clearing up certain forms of inflammation.  Start your day off by doing a 10-minute stretch to allow any stiffness to dissipate or yoga to include mindful breathing techniques which can increase blood and oxygen flow.  Should you feel an onset of pain or discomfort, stretching out the affected area can be a technique to implore which can ease tension should you not have access to any pain relief ointments or creams.  

Diet – Maintaining a healthy diet is extremely critical to curbing inflammation.  Likely the easiest ways to give you relief, diet can affect much of what occurs in your body in general but especially so when it comes to inflammation.  Foods that are high in antioxidants can dispel the onset of inflammation from within and work to keep it under control.  Some examples of foods include avocados, berries, fatty fish such as salmon, broccoli, mushrooms, nuts, leafy greens, and more.  On the flip side, there are certainly many food items to avoid which can aggravate the body and cause inflammatory flare-ups to occur.  Items to avoid would be sugars, refined carbohydrates such as pastries and other baked goods, saturated fats like in fried foods, red meats as well as processed meats such as sausages and hot dogs.  In small amounts of course it will not cause severe harm, however actively working to cut out these inflammation-inducing foods can greatly improve your overall health in the long term.  

Hot or Cold Therapy – One of the first things to seek when swelling or specific pain has approached as a result of inflammation would be either a cold or hot compress.  Icing affected areas will numb the pain, decrease swelling, and work to provide some immediate but temporary relief.  Icing for about 20 minutes should allow for any swelling to subside and allow for the blood to begin to recirculate properly.  In the same fashion, a heated compress will also divert the blood from the affected area to allow the proper circulation of the blood.  A 10-15 minute treatment should do the trick but do be cognizant of burning the skin when implementing a hot compress so as to not cause burning.   

Reduce Stress – If there is anything you can do to reduce the amount of stress in your life, it can greatly impact the way in which your body handles inflammation.  Try taking a mind-clearing walk, spending some time to yourself with a bath, or reduce your workload if possible.

Inflammation, while a very broad yet symptom-specific ailment, is an issue to be aware of when it comes to our health and lifestyle choices.  As mentioned above, it is the way in which the body informs you that there is an issue within you that needs to be solved or looked into.  

Sometimes the efforts can be a matter of changing habits to create a new and improved way of living, or sometimes it’s a sign of needing more attentive care.  In any circumstance, there are ways of understanding and finding a solution to it all if you take a moment to listen to what your body has to say.  

In the meantime, don’t be afraid to reach for that pain relief cream!