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Inflammation (Acute)

Acute inflammation (or swelling) is one of your body’s immediate resposes to injury or tissue damage and it is the start of the healing process.

Common Signs & Symptoms

  • Pain and stiffness is worse in the morning
  • Stiffness is worse after staying still for any period of time
  • Tenderness of the area
  • Heat, redness and/or swelling
  • General ache, throb and/or burning pain

Description

Acute inflammation (or swelling) is one of your body’s immediate resposes to injury or tissue damage and it is the start of the healing process.  Fluid containing specialised cells accumulates in the damaged area causing it to knit it together forming a scar. The size and amount of swelling is determined by the volume of this fluid but, unlike in your knee, this is difficult to see in your back. If your back is inflamed it will tend to feel stiff when you have been still for a while, for example when you stand up after watching a movie or when you first get out of bed.


Inflammation is an important part of healing, but sometimes the amount of accumulated fluid is too much to do this effectively. Controlling the amount of inflammation usually gives you the best long term result and limits the size of any scarring.

Chronic (Systemic) Inflammation is where your body develops a continuous cycle of inflammation. It is found in diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and other arthritis conditions of the system. In common with acute inflammation, it is important to control the amount of inflammation you suffer to prevent long term problems.

NB Swelling which you can see within a couple of minutes (such as when you sprain your ankle or knee) usually develops when you damage a blood vessel causing bleeding into the surrounding tissues. In this instance you should apply immediate pressure to prevent further bleeding. This is very different to the swelling which occurs in inflammation.

Advice & Treatment

For Acute Inflammation

Use the PRICE Principal
Protection - support the curve of your low back with a small cushion when you are sitting. When you're lying on your side in bed a pillow between your legs can take the pressure off your back

Rest- avoid vigorous activity, listen to your body but it is important to keep moving little and often to avoid inflammation building up.
Ice- use broken up ice cubes in a pillow case or a cold pack over the inflamed area. Do this 3-4 times a day for no longer than 10 minutes at a time.

Compression- this is best achieved by using your core stability muscles to take the pressure off your back joints
Elevation -  this is not so easy with the back but a regular change in your position and limited lying down should have the same effect.

Ask your pharmacist about anti-inflammatory medication as this can be extremely helpful in maintaining control of your inflammation and get you back to normal activity.

See your Doctor if inflammation does not resolve with the advice given - they may do some blood tests to rule out conditions such as rheumatoid Arthritis and offer you medication to help.

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