T Nation

Why Should We Stop ACUTE Inflammation?


Because fearing the possibility that it could become chronic and further damage tissue cells? Or to lessen the pain and the amount of temporary ROM/function loss?

Probably a dumb question but I'd really like to know. As I understand it (not well. Ok actually just from a wikipedia article.) acute inflammation is the body response to promote healing process. Why not wait for some time first (how long?) and only then apply some ice if it doesn't get any better?



I, too. think it is a good question. If acute inflammation is the natural response of the body, why should we try to stop it? And if acute inflammation is undesirable or sub-optimal, why then does the body respond to injury with swelling, inflammation etc? I am not saying we should not try to counter accute inflammation; from experience I know to reach for ice etc in case of strains and pulls. But like the OP I am curious about the mechanisms and processes involved.


Here is a generalized answer:

You don't want to all together completely stop acute inflammation, but you need to be able to control it. Yes, acute inflammation is the body's response to injury. Too much inflammation, swelling, etc does not allow the body to work optimally at healing the injured area (cells become hypoxic, increased pain causes perturbed motor patterns, etc).

Also, IMO, it also has to do with a pain issue as well. Increase inflammation = increased pain. Increase pain = decrease movement and ROM at that area/joint. Decreased movement and ROM = poorly aligned healed tissue fibers along with a host of other issues that perturb proper healing.

Again, this a very broad/generalized answer, but basically you want to CONTROL the inflammation at the area, but not completely eliminate it.


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Beat me to it by 5 hours
since we don't have to "hop" away from sabre tooth tigers anymore we can now manipulate our bodies into regaining full function a lot quicker, in survival situations some injuries would severely limit our life span (i.e. broken leg). All in all 4 weeks off to regain full function is nothing compared to what it used to mean.


Because it hurts.
Ask my left ankle.
tweet tweet


Interesting answers guys, thanks.

Two more questions if you will, does acute inflammation tend to do more damage than it heals if left untreated? And do we have to be more aware at joint inflammation (rather than muscle inflammation) because it's slower to heal?


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Your first question probably depends on the amount of initial trauma and how much you've done up to that point. Potentially swelling and inflammatory agents could get out of hand quickly. And if you leave it untreated, it won't be the acute inflammation that ends up being the issue, but the actual injury.

More aware? Joint inflammation will most likely be slower to clear and require more care depending on severity again.



What's your actual profession? You are pretty knowledgable on these subjects.


I used to have this same question and was confused by conflicting opinions about anti-inflammatory treatments like ice and NSAIDs.

By now, I have had many injuries over the years, so I have had a chance to do lots of self-experimentation. Absolutely without a doubt, injuries heal much faster and much better if you immediately apply ice with compression and take an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen.


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I can understand the "much better" part, but also much faster? Wow apparently we have fault in design LOL!

BTW your share of experience is much appreciated.


'human performance expert' haha, fair enough.


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Yes, much faster. Injured tissue doesn't begin to heal, i.e. get rebuilt, until the acute inflammation process with swelling has subsided. The swelling impairs recovery, at least in part by reducing blood flow. The ice and compression drive down the swelling and increase blood flow when the ice is removed.

I would say that a strain that takes me 10 days to feel 95% better if I do nothing can get to that same state in 3-5 days if I treat it immediately and aggressively.

I wouldn't call it a "fault in design"...the system is biased to splint and guard the damaged area and cause pain to limit movement and further damage. In the absence of intervention to aid healing, that bias is probably the best design.


Hmm yeah that makes sense.