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Inflammation - why and how it heals

Updated: Apr 22

Heat and swelling are part of the healing process. Inflammation is a cellular response, it is the mechanism that occurs when tissues or cells are injured or in danger. It can be caused by trauma, bacteria, toxins, heat, stress and other causes.

The damaged cells send out hormones - chemical messengers - calling for help, assistance and letting the body know they are in distress or danger. Histamine, bradykinin and prostaglandins are some of the chemicals released.


Histamine is released from mast cells (white blood cell) to promote blood flow and tissue changes. Histamine works with nerve cells to produce itching, it can also cause vomiting and diarrhoea to help expel the irritant. In the lungs it can cause constriction making it hard to breath, to protect the lungs from danger.


Bradykinin is a peptide - a small chain of amino acids that promote inflammation. It increases blood pressure and enables plasma fluid to be released, e.g. the yellow white fluid on the skin after a burn. Plasma contains the chemical to help healing and blood clotting. Bradykinin hormone is also involved with nociception, pain messages relayed to the area concerned.


Prostaglandins are a group of lipids - micro biomolecules - that are made at the wound, irritation or tissue damaged site. They control inflammation, blood flow, blood clots, and fevers to aid the healing process. The reaction of all these hormones is usually short term whilst the body is repaired.


Inflammation can be acute or chronic:

  • ACUTE is a short-term process occurring in response to tissue injury, usually appearing within minutes or hours.

  • CHRONIC refers to a prolonged inflammatory response that involves a progressive change in the type of cells present at the site of inflammation.

Inflammation helps the body to heal.

Inflammation is a vital part of the immune system's response to injury and infection. It is the body's way of signalling the immune system to heal and repair damaged tissue, as well as defend itself against foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. 

Common causes:

grazes, stings, cuts, bruises, burns, sprains, strains, compression and impact. If symptoms persist or you are concerned seek medical advice.

What is happening?

Redness: The body sends more blood and fluid to the affected area. They contain materials needed the healing process.

Heat: The extra blood in the area makes it feel warm to the touch.

Swelling: When more blood and fluids are sent to an area it expands.

Pain: The body releases chemicals that stimulate nerve endings in the affected area, making the area more sensitive.

Immobility: Excess blood and fluid in the affected area can lead to decrease of function in that area.

What can you do?


Protect and support the injured or sore area. STOP, change, or take a break from any activity that may be causing your pain or soreness.


Will reduce pain and swelling. An ice or cold pack or cold water, will prevent or minimize swelling. Apply for for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day. Do not apply ice or heat directly to the skin or open wound.


Wrapping or K-taping the injured or sore area will help decrease swelling. Don't wrap it too tightly, because this can cause more swelling below the affected area.


Elevating the injured or sore area above the level of your heart to help minimize swelling.


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