What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation is the body’s way of protecting itself from harmful illness, infection, and injuries. The body’s immune system produces an inflammatory response to potential irritants or invaders, which includes a higher production of white blood cells, immune cells, and cytokines to help fight off any harmful invaders–such as bacteria or pathogens.
Inflammation is needed to fight off foreign substances in the body, because otherwise they would be able to freely enter your system and wreak havoc–causing harm and, in extreme cases, death. To protect the body, inflammation occurs and causes redness, swelling, and pain, and can even cause the affected area to become non-functional. This type of inflammation is present in everyone and extremely beneficial to removing foreign irritants and pathogens so the body can begin to heal. In fact, infections and wounds would not be able to heal without an inflammatory response. Normal, beneficial inflammation dissipates with time and treatment, and so does its signs–namely redness and swelling.
The Cause Of Inflammation
While inflammation is the body’s natural immune response to potential harm, it can be caused by a variety of factors–ranging from poor diet to lack of sleep, among other lifestyle choices.
Here are a few things that can lead to an immune response that produces inflammation:
- Not getting enough sleep
- Inability to fight initial cause of inflammation
- Inflammatory foods & poor nutrition
- Extreme levels of stress or fatigue
- Bodily Injury
- Sickness and disease
- Chronic Illness
Chronic inflammation is different from the body’s typical response to harm or irritants. This type of inflammation occurs when the body generates an inflammatory response that is far stronger than is necessary in response to a perceived threat or invader, or an imbalanced immune system. There are also instances, as in the case of arthritis, where the body produces an inflammatory response even though there is nothing to fight. An incorrect immune response can trigger chronic inflammation which leads to a vicious cycle of long-term pain or illness.
Chronic inflammation can also cause an autoimmune response, which results from the immune system attacking healthy tissue in the body because it wrongly determines that part of the body to be a threat or foreign substance. Chronic inflammation can cause serious harm and lead to harmful conditions and diseases, including some cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s Disease, and Psoriasis. In fact, many people are unaware that they even have chronic inflammation until they are diagnosed with a related disorder or disease.
Symptoms & Effects of Chronic Inflammation
There are many different reactions to the body’s natural inflammation, but a few tell-tale signs that you could be experiencing symptoms that are outside of the norm and indicative of chronic inflammation, include:
- Swollen Joints & Joint Pain
- High Blood Pressure
- Chest Pain
- Abdominal Pain
- Irritable Bowels
- Weight Gain
With the immune system working so hard to fight off potential infections and pathogens, it becomes overused and responds with even more inflammation to “join the fight” so to speak. The immune system releases shite blood cells to fight off unwanted foreign substances, but when this response contributed to chronic inflammation, the immune system becomes imbalanced and contributes to a cycle of chronic illness.
Common Treatments & Their Pitfalls
The most commonly prescribed remedy for inflammation is anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), however these medications have a long list of negative effects and drawbacks. According to the A.C.A., NSAIDS are responsible for more than 100,000 hospitalizations and over 16, 500 deaths a year in the United States alone. NSAIDs allow those suffering from inflammation to function, but for many patients they also serve as a crutch– these drugs merely treat the symptoms of inflammation, and do not remedy the source of it.
There have been numerous studies showing the negative effects of NSAIDs, including:
- One study found that over the counter prescription pain medications for back pain have limited effectiveness and raise the risk of harmful side-effects.
- Another study determined that preventable adverse drug reactions (ADRs) are responsible for 10% of hospital admissions in older people, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are responsible for 30% of ADRs hospital admissions–mainly due to bleeding, heart attack, stroke, and renal damage.
- Finally, chronic self-reported use of NSAIDs was associated with an increased risk of adverse events during long-term follow up of hypertensive patients with coronary artery disease.
According to ACA President David Herd, DC, “The American Chiropractic Association urges people to try non-drug approaches to back pain relief first, before resorting to over the counter or prescription medications.”
He notes that, “In addition to spinal manipulation, chiropractors can offer a range of non-drug therapies for back pain and recommend exercises and important lifestyle changes to help prevent future back pain and injury.”
Chiropractic Treatment Can Help
While it might seem odd, chiropractic care can help ease the symptoms related to chronic inflammation and eliminate stress contributing to your condition. In one health study, 9 chiropractic lower back manipulations caused the mediators of inflammation (specifically IL-6 and CRP) to present a normalization response in individuals suffering from chronic low back pain.
During an initial consultation with a chiropractor, they will perform an exam to evaluate the source of your pain, determine the cause of inflammation, and create a treatment plan to help you feel better and resolve your issues related to chronic inflammation.
A chiropractor can provide manual adjustments to your spine and release tension and provide relief to any pinched or irritated spinal nerves and may reduce the production of neuropeptides and cytokines, which can help reduce inflammation. Cytokines are proteins that regulate cells of the immune system and can cause a severe inflammatory response once built up. When Spinal adjustments allow better nerve signaling and communication in the body to promote immune system health, making the immune system less likely to trigger chronic inflammation.
Chiropractic Care As Part Of A Healthy Lifestyle
In addition to treatments and bodily adjustments, Chiropractors can help pinpoint causes of chronic inflammation and offer lifestyle changes to help reduce its occurrence. From diet changes to exercise, weight loss, and stress management, there are a myriad of ways to ease your symptoms and prevent chronic inflammation flare-ups. A few common lifestyle changes that chiropractors suggest in order to help patients with chronic inflammation include:
- Anti-Inflammatory Diet–A diet that consists of plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean meats and fish, and other nutrient-rich foods can help reduce chronic inflammation in the body. There are also many supplements that have been shown to prevent inflammation and promote bone, joint, and bodily health, such as vitamin D, magnesium, and fish oils.
- Regular Exercise–Treat your body right with regular exercise to maintain normal body functions and reduce inflammation. You should talk to your chiropractor about which exercises are best for your body and current health–such as choosing one activity over another is you have weak joints or areas of inflammation or pressure. Aerobics and weight training can help you feel great.
- Weight Loss–If you are struggling with inflammation and are overweight or struggle with constant weight fluctuation, losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can help prevent worsening inflammation. Talk to your chiropractor about the best way to lose weight and what a healthy weight looks like for your body and lifestyle.
- Stress Reduction–Everyone experiences some degree of stress but managing your stress level is a great way to promote relaxation and reduce inflammation. Try practicing yoga, meditating, reading, gardening, or doing other activities that you enjoy in order to create a stress-free environment.
- Sleep Management– Getting enough sleep can help you handle day-to-day stressors more easily and promotes a healthy and effective immune system. From simple techniques to help you fall asleep to practicing better sleep habits and a regular schedule, getting enough rest is one of the best things you can do to improve your health and reduce the chance of developing health conditions associated with chronic inflammation.
To reduce the chance of developing chronic inflammation that can wreak havoc on the body, take a balanced approach with your health to include chiropractic care and adjustments, good nutrition, stress management, regular exercise, and a good sleep schedule.
For more information about reducing inflammation or to schedule a chiropractic visit, contact RxWellness Spine & Health today. Start living your life in balance, today!