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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Inflammation and Swelling: More to the Story

By: Joel Luedke

Inflammation has gotten a bad rap lately when it comes to certain things and most of it is justified when it comes to chronic illness and disease.  Does it deserve the bad classification when it comes to working out and injury though?  We are going to investigate that here.


Whenever we work out we are causing some level of damage to the muscles that are doing the work.  This is a good thing as long as it is contained.  It can get out of hand and things can go really wrong (ARTICLE: Death By Burpee) and that is too far but when we have a controlled amount of 'damage' we are able to let our bodies adapt and improve due to the stress.  In this case of damage the inflammation associated with it is a good thing as it makes our body more resilient.


This general idea also transfers over to injury.  The inflammatory process is the bodies natural response to injury so why would we want to shut it down in some capacity?  To be clear we are going to try and differentiate the inflammatory response and inflammation from 'swelling'.  Inflammation is part of the healing process, when it gets slowed down or out of hand that can lead to EXCESSIVE inflammation and left over swelling, this is where the problem occurs.

Excessive swelling slows down and causes problems with the inflammatory response and this leads to problems in the treatment and rehab process.  What are we supposed to do then?  Well for most it is rest and throw a bag of ice on it and see how it feels tomorrow.  There has to be a better way... (ARTICLE: Can I get a bag of ice?)


When you start taking a look at the specifics of inflammation and how the body handles it you can start asking a lot of questions, such as, have we been too slow to move and reliant on rest in the past.  Inflammation/swelling/waste is moved out of your body through the lymphatic system (some venous) and then your body figures out how to get it out.  The interesting thing about the lymphatic system is that it is a passive system meaning that something has to stimulate it for it to work as it can't pump swelling out on its own.


There are many options for this such as mechanically moving the swelling (massage, graduated compression) or getting muscle activation.  By contracting the muscles your body creates a pumping action that helps the waste products make their way back to the systems that can then excrete them out.  With muscle activation after injury you do have to be careful, you don't want to do more damage. Gary Reinl sums this up best "Use your brain, no pain."  (Clinically Pressed Episode) Find movements that cause no pain but get the muscles around the injured site to fire and then fire them as much as possible to keep everything moving and the inflammatory process running at optimal.

You have a lot of control over the outcome of your workouts or injury when it comes to inflammation but it does take work, not just rest and ice.
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