Understanding pain

What is inflammation?

Learn all about the processes that cause inflammation, why it happens and how it can make our bodies feel.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is the body’s normal protective response to an injury. In inflammation, our white blood cells fight to protect us from infection, for example from bacteria or viruses. It can also occur when our bodies are injured, for example if you get a strain while playing sports it will often become painful, swollen and inflamed. Inflammation is marked by an increased blood flow to the affected area. This allows white blood cells (neutrophils), and a host of other cells (basophils, monocytes and macrophages) to reach the area of inflammation.

How long does inflammation last?

Acute inflammation usually lasts for a few days and is normally beneficial for healing, though often accompanied by sensations such as itching or soreness (which may be unpleasant at times).

*What is an inflammation? - National Library of Medicine - PubMed Health. 2016. What is an inflammation? - National Library of Medicine - PubMed Health. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072482/. [Accessed 08 April 2016].

Side profile of a man riding a bicycle

Did you know?

Inflammation occurs when blood vessels expand to let more blood get to the injured tissue. This is why the area gets red and hot.*

Symptoms of inflammation

There are five signs, or symptoms, that may indicate an acute inflammation: redness, heat, swelling, pain and finding it hard to move the affected area of your body normally. Some inflammation may be minor, affecting only a small area and will heal on its own, but it can also be widespread, painful and require treatment.

73% of people know that inflammation is a leading cause of pain

Diagnosis and treatment

If your pain is severe or lasts for a long time you should consult your doctor, he or she may conduct an examination and possibly order a blood test or imaging tests, such as an X-ray, MRI or CT scan to find out the cause of the inflammation. A doctor may also recommend treatment, such as taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which are used for anti-inflammatory purposes and pain relief.

*GSK Global Pain Index Research 2014, report, p.40

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