The Good, The Bad, And The Beauty Of Inflammation
Inflammation has gotten a bad reputation. It is the underlying issue in most chronic disease and death. However, it is not inherently bad. Inflammation is a necessary and healthy response to acute injury. We cannot fully heal without it. But when it sticks around in the body for too long we can end up in difficult situations.
Let's time travel back to the days of humans struggling to survive on the African plains. A lion is chasing you down, thinking you look like a pretty good afternoon meal. You are a pretty fit individual, so you run, but chiropractic hasn't been developed yet, so your nervous system and proprioception are not operating at optimal levels. You trip over a rock, twisting your ankle as you fall. In a panic, you need to get back on your feet ASAP to out run the salivating beast who wants to chow down on your meat. Your body, sensing the injury in your ankle, sends in the reinforcements. It rushes blood into the area surrounding your ankle joint to stabilize the area. This allows you to quickly hop back up and keep running. This immediate response from your body allows you to get back up and keep moving despite your debilitating injury. Thank your intelligent body for its quick reaction time because without it, you would be hopping along, likely already on the platter for the lion.
The adrenaline pumping through your blood stream keeps you from noticing the pain but you can feel it starting to creep in. You feel the warm blood and fluid build up in the area as you struggle to move smoothly forward. Eventually you get back to your cave, safely away from the big cat. You examine the area and notice the 5 cardinal signs of inflammation: pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function. While the immediate rush of blood to the joint was a helpful survival mechanism, if this inflammation doesn't dissipate over the next few hours to days, you won't be able to get back out to hunt for your own sustenance.
Back in pre-historic times, the likelihood of your inflammation sticking around in that joint is low. You have no choice but to start putting motion back into that ankle as your next meal is dependent upon your own mobility. In today's world, if we have inflammation in an injured area of the body, we are not as quick to help it dissipate out of the injured area back into the rest of the body to be recycled and detoxified. We have created sedentary lives for ourselves, which means that once we are seated at our desk for work or our couch to binge on Netflix, we are unlikely to move soon. This is the worst possible scenario for inflammation. Our body needs motion in order to help it move the build up of fluid out of the joint back to our torso in order to remove it. This motion is called imbibition, which is essential in all joints of the body to move nutrients in and toxins out. Gentle movement into an injured and inflamed joint is the path to healing. Without it, we end up with chronic inflammation, the precursor to chronic health problems.
Our body knows exactly what to do with an injury: send in the inflammatory reinforcements for survival initially. As soon as we can get motion back in the joint, it pumps the dead cells and excess fluid out. When we honor this innately intelligent response to injury, our body can heal itself efficiently. It is only when we apathetically sink back into inaction and let the joint sit without motion that inflammation builds and can cause future problems. The beautiful part of this is that we don't have to do very much; we just need to honor the body's ability to do what it needs to. Nature needs no help, just no interference. When you get adjusted by your chiropractor, you are allowing the body to communicate more efficiently via the nervous system, removing potential interference to your healing.