Inflammation and it’s Impact on Your Joints

Inflammation and its Impact on Joints



Your body's immune system is there to protect you from viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. The immune response also kicks in following an injury, helping the body heal any wounds. As a result of the immune response, the injured area might swell and turn red. Both are signs that the immune system is working as it should.



The swelling and redness are part of an inflammatory response. In some cases, inflammation is a good thing, as it's necessary for healing. But there are also instances when inflammation contributes to other health issues, such as joint damage. Understanding the good and bad about inflammation is key to keeping it under control.



What Is Inflammation?



Inflammation occurs when your immune system sends white blood cells to an injured area or in response to the presence of viruses and bacteria. The white blood cells do their best to help the injury heal or to kill off the pathogen. The area in question usually becomes red and swollen. It might feel warm to the touch and might hurt.



Inflammation can be acute, meaning it develops in response to injury or illness, or chronic. Chronic inflammation persists for an extended period. Often, the signs of chronic inflammation are subtle, at least at first. Over time, they can become more pronounced.



What Causes Inflammation?



Several things cause inflammation. During a normal immune response, the inflammation occurs in response to the infection or injury. Once the injury is healed or the infection eliminated, the immune response should stop. There are cases, though, when the immune system isn't able to fully or adequately clear the infection and inflammation persists.



In some instances, the immune system might start attacking a part of the body, causing inflammation even though bacteria or viruses aren't present. Inflammation often goes hand-in-hand with auto-immune disorders, for example. Some auto-immune disorders cause inflammation in the joints.



Inflammation and Your Joints



Around 20% of the U.S. population has some form of arthritis, including types caused by the immune system attacking the joints and causing inflammation. Inflammatory types of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis arthritis, and gout.



Inflammation in the joints can be painful, due to damage to the nerve endings. It can also increase the amount of fluid in the joints, can contribute to muscle loss, and can damage the bones and cartilage. Without treatment, chronic joint inflammation can lead to a loss of mobility and deformity.



How to Cope With Inflammation

If you are experiencing pain in the joints or limited joint movement due to inflammation, there are several ways to cope with the situation. In some cases, making certain lifestyle changes can be enough to help control your body's immune response and to reduce inflammation.



Some of the things you can do include:



● Eat anti-inflammatory foods

● Increase exercise

● Find ways to reduce stress levels

Foods That Can Help Fight Inflammation



While some foods are thought to make inflammation worse, such as fried foods, red meat, and sugary drinks, some types of food have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Adding these foods to your diet can reduce inflammation and help to protect your joints:



● Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, such as berries, tomatoes, and broccoli.

● Fish, such as salmon, that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids

● Olive oil

● Turmeric, a type of spice that contains curcumin, a compound that has anti-inflammatory effects

● Nuts, such as almonds



For the best results, anti-inflammatory foods should be part of a diet that is healthy and nutritious overall. If you aren't sure what to eat or how to go about making dietary changes that will have a lasting benefit, try working with a registered dietician or nutrition counselor. They can help you develop meal plans and offer advice on making dietary changes you're likely to stick with.



Exercise and Stress Reduction Techniques to Help With Inflammation



Lowering your stress levels and finding ways to move more can also help to reduce inflammation and its effects on your joints. You don't have to turn into a marathoner to benefit from exercise. Even small changes to your habits, such as taking a short walk after dinner or taking the stairs instead of the elevators, can help.



Stress reduction techniques that might help you out include practicing yoga, meditating, or practicing deep breathing. Talking to a therapist and exploring various coping options might also help you lower your stress levels.



Finding ways to cope with inflammation does more than help your joints. It can also help you feel better all over and can improve your quality of life considerably. If you are concerned about the health of your joints, talk to your doctor to learn more about your options.



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Sources:  

1. Chronic Inflammation, StatPearls, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/

2. Causes of Inflammatory Joint Pain, Arthritis Foundation, https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/managing-pain/understanding-pain/causes-of-inflammatory-joint-pain

3. Foods That Fight Inflammation, Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation

4. What Is an Inflammation? Informed Health, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279298/

5. Six Keys to Reducing Inflammation, Scripps, https://www.scripps.org/news_items/4232-six-keys-to-reducing-inflammation



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