Inflammation by definition is a response from the immune system to a local infection or injury that acts to separate and resolve the damage and to protect the body from invasion. Once inflammation occurs, depending on the severity of the damage and location, recovery may take some time. Inflammation is a protective tissue response, however, it is when the body is unable to progress past this stage that it interferes with healing.
What exactly causes inflammation? There are several causes for inflammation
a) Inflammation due to injury
b) Inflammation from bacterial infestation (results in a fever which is an absolute contraindication to massage; puss can also be present which is also a contraindication of massage)
c) Illness or disease that triggers the inflammatory response (such as irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS).
The two common phases of inflammation, acute and subacute, include the restoration and rebuilding of the damaged tissue.
When a cell becomes damaged (usually the result of an injury), it releases specific proteins such as cytokines and histamines that create a domino effect. Blood vessels in the damaged tissue begin to dilate, increasing the flow of blood to that area which causes redness and heat. The capillary walls become more permeable; allowing large quantities of blood plasma and white cells to enter the tissue spaces, causing swelling to occur. Swelling puts pressure on the local nerve endings, and that creates the pain we feel during this process. A common physiologic response to an acute injury is spasms in the neighboring tissues, effectively splinting the injured tissues. It is not uncommon for the spasms to linger long after the injury has healed. Trigger points and ischemia develop and what started as an acute injury becomes chronic.
Acute inflammation that comes and goes is a sign of a normal immune system. The issues with chronic inflammation means there is something keeping the immune system’s response on full throttle which in turn can cause more damage and prevent the body from healing naturally.
Currently the tests for inflammation measure blood levels of C-reactive protein (a pro-inflammatory marker) and the irksome amino acid called homocysteine.
Here are a couple of natural and virtually harmful ways to treat inflammation.
1) Massage not only increases circulation but also reduces tension, stress, and calms the nerves affected by inflammation. Keep in mind that if you are experiencing acute inflammation, massage can make the symptoms of inflammation worse. Deep tissue massage for example already causes mild inflammation in the muscle tissue. Massage during the subacute stage of inflammation can be invaluable. During this time the body is forming scar tissue, and massage can aid in the rebuilding stage ensuring the new tissue is strong, pliable, and flexible.
2) Diet! There are some foods that help reduce inflammation such as: papaya, avocado, blueberries, chia seeds, cranberries, broccoli, ginger, walnuts, red cabbage, hemp seeds, turmeric, and celery. Low protein and high-carb diets are inflammatory, while low-carb diets reduce inflammation in most women. Refined sugar and other high glycemic foods increase the insulin levels which cause the immune system to go on red alert.
With all this in consideration, you know your body better than anyone; remain vigilant about which foods stoke up your inflammation. When in doubt, talk to your primary doctor! J
by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
Theory & Practice of Therapeutic Massage. Fifth Edition. Mark F. Beck.
Jennifer Roldan, LMP Northwest WellnessFederal Way, WA