Somewhere along the way the term inflammation got a bad name. Inflammation can’t be good, right? At least this is what most people think.

Inflammation is actually an essential part of every reparative process. It is how our bodies heal and fight back. It is how we recover from trauma, surgery (organized trauma), cuts, broken bones, infections, etc. Inflammation is a good thing.

You have to admit that when you hear the word “inflammation” you think bad thoughts. “Oh God, did I hear you say I have inflammation?” Next time you hear this, stop and be grateful that your body orchestrates such a beautiful response to all the abuses we bring upon it!

Generally speaking, when the inflammatory process is pressed into action and it is permitted to “fix” the insult (cut, blunt trauma, sprain, etc.), things get repaired and your boo boo gets better: problem solved and you move on.

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Not all inflammatory responses are created equal

That said, too little or too much inflammatory response can be a bad thing, indeed.

1) If you don’t mount an effective inflammatory response when needed, you are potentially at risk of more serious consequences. Just ask anyone who is or has been on chemotherapy, or anyone with an immune deficiency disorder such as advanced AIDS. This is really scary stuff indeed.

2) On the other hand there are plenty of very ugly disorders, e.g. autoimmune diseases, where our bodies over do the inflammatory response and our immune system attacks the host (us): rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s disease to name just a couple.

3) Let’s not forget the normal inflammatory response that accompanies a viral or bacterial infection or one traumatic event. Did you know that most of the symptoms, such as fever, malaise, muscle aches, etc., that you encounter when you have an infection, a cold or the flu are a direct result of the inflammatory response, not the infection itself? This is a good and necessary response to have, but it is what creates the symptoms. It also fixes the problem. This is what we would call acute inflammation.

So, what am I all angry about now?

When it comes to those athletic or mechanical type inflammatory orthopaedic problems like plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendinitis, your doctor may be treating the WRONG thing. Stay tuned for part 2, to find out more and the Orthopaedic Groundhog Day.