Today, we’ll be discussing inflammation and how it relates to physical therapy. Inflammation is a normal part of the body’s response to injury or infection. In other words, it is part of your body’s natural defense system. Generally, there are two types of inflammation: Acute and chronic. We’ll be discussing both of these types, as well as how physical therapy can help. Virtually everything treated with physical therapy is connected to inflammation! If you are interested in learning more, you’re in the right place. Let’s get right into it.

Understanding the Causes of Inflammation

As mentioned above, inflammation is the body’s response to injury or infection. When you are exposed to things such as bacteria or toxic chemicals, the body activates the immune system. The immune system then sends out inflammatory cells to attack bacteria or heal damaged tissue, and cytokines are released to stimulate more inflammatory cells. As a result, you may experience pain, swelling, bruising, or redness. The most common causes of inflammation are autoimmune disorders, exposure to toxins, and untreated acute inflammation.

There are two types of inflammation: Acute and chronic.

  • Acute inflammation: This type of inflammation is the body’s response to sudden damage, such as cutting your finger or scraping your knee. Inflammatory cells are sent immediately to the injury and begin the healing process. Acute inflammation usually lasts 2 to 6 weeks.
  • Chronic inflammation: This type of inflammation occurs when the body continues sending out inflammatory cells, even when there is no danger or injury. This is common with autoimmune disorders, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Persistent acute inflammation can lead to chronic inflammation.

Additionally, certain lifestyle factors can cause inflammation. For example, you may be more likely to develop inflammation if you are obese, smoke, drink alcohol excessively, or don’t exercise enough. 

Recognizing the Symptoms of Inflammation

The most common symptoms of acute inflammation include pain or tenderness, swelling, redness, and heat at the site of the injury. You may also experience loss of function or movement. Symptoms of chronic inflammation may be harder to spot. Some common symptoms of chronic inflammation include fatigue, fever, joint pain, skin rash, abdominal or chest pain, or mouth sores. 

Common Health Conditions Associated with Chronic Inflammation

While acute inflammation is often caused by sudden injury, chronic inflammation is often caused by a variety of conditions. These conditions include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Lupus
  • Psoriasis
  • Asthma
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease 
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease

Treating Inflammation with Physical Therapy and Other Methods

Acute inflammation typically goes away on its own. For example, if you have an injury such as a cut, the inflammation should clear up rather quickly with proper wound care and rest. Chronic inflammation can be managed and treated with lifestyle changes such as an anti-inflammatory diet, supplements, and exercise regimens. 

Certain vitamins, such as vitamin A, C, and D, and supplements like zinc can reduce inflammation. Diet changes can also be beneficial, such as eating foods with anti-inflammatory properties. Some of these foods include oily fish (mackerel, salmon, or sardines), leafy greens, tomatoes, olive oil, and spices such as turmeric, ginger, and garlic. Certain foods should be avoided, as they can increase inflammation. If you suffer from chronic inflammation, it may be helpful for you to avoid fried foods, cured meats, and highly refined trans fats. 

How Physical Therapy Can Help Reduce Inflammation and Improve Mobility

Several kinds of physical therapy programs have been shown to be effective in managing and reducing inflammation. Here at Rise Above Physical Therapy, we will assess your condition and create a unique treatment plan that is tailored to your needs! Our knowledgeable physical therapists can educate you on possible lifestyle changes that may be necessary to reduce inflammation, as well as exercises, recommendations for herbal supplements, and more. We know that when you are suffering from inflammation, exercise may be the last thing you feel like doing. However, when you exercise, your immune system is stimulated and can produce the cells needed to fight inflammation. In fact, a study found that just 20 minutes of moderate exercise can have anti-inflammatory effects! Low-impact exercises such as yoga, walking, and cycling can also benefit those with inflammation. 

When you exercise, your muscle cells release a protein known as interleukin 6, which is a cytokine essential for reducing inflammation. Exercising on a regular basis also lowers levels of TNF-alpha, which is a bad protein that causes inflammation. Additionally, therapeutic exercise such as physical therapy reduces pain, swelling, and improves function of muscles and joints.

In our last post, we discussed physical therapy as a whole, including what it is, how it benefits people, and why it is important. Physical therapy can be used in a variety of circumstances, including reducing pain, recovery from a sports-related injury, preventing surgery, managing a chronic illness, and more. If you are interested in learning more about physical therapy, we encourage you to check out our last post!

As you can see, physical therapy is a great way to manage and reduce inflammation for a better overall health and condition. Physical therapy can be beneficial for a variety of conditions, including arthritis, sports-related injuries, and more. We hope you found this article informative, and we thank you for reading. If you have further questions about physical therapy, we encourage you to reach out to us. Our knowledgeable staff would be happy to assist you! Here at Rise Above Physical Therapy, we use our skills and tools to promote healing and decrease pain as well as restore functional mobility. Schedule a free consultation with us today!