Inflammation is how a body responds to injury, in the same way that your immune system fights off bacterial and viral infection in a sore throat. Both begin with an immediate local response designed to protect the body from further injury and tissue damage. Inflammation is an aggressive process that initially causes swelling, heat, a loss of function, redness and pain (SHARP symptoms). Unchecked, inflammation leads to additional tissue damage, which can lead to more Pain. This is why it is important to match massage treatments to your stage of inflammation: an incorrect assessment can interfere with or prolong the natural healing process.
Describing symptoms, goals and treatment options for each stage of inflammation (SOI) is complicated. This post presents general information about inflammation and pain. Future posts will be devoted to elaborating on each stage of inflammation (SOI) and how massage can alleviate your symptoms. This series is designed to help those trying to rehabilitate from an injury or pain, so the goal of pursuing an active, fulfilling life is aligned with how the body is trying to heal. Here, I generally describe the process of inflammation, what purpose it serves in healing, and briefly outline the unique physiology of each stage.
Why is inflammation so aggressive? Inflammation attacks potential invaders and walls off a hurt area so that a local injury doesn't become a systemic problem. Acute pain also slows you down so that you don't keep re-injuring yourself.
Why slow down inflammation when it is a natural part of healing? Inflammation is a very aggressive process which can damage healthy collateral tissue as well.
When used correctly, massage and other forms of bodywork can speed healing, while minimizing pain. This why it is important to match treatments, especially massage treatments, to the stage of inflammation (SOI) you are experiencing. This requires critical thinking by both treatment providers and treatment seekers about the symptom patterns involved with each stage. Addressing SOI is an essential part of my medical massage and qigong practice for people with medically complex conditions, located at Earthbody Wellness Center, 3810 SE Belmont St., Portland, Oregon, 97214. If you would like to schedule a consultation, click on Contact Me,
I have been taught to recognize 5 stages of inflammation: Each stage has its own unique physiology and symptom picture. Treatment goals aim to reduce problematic symptoms related to each stage. Once goals are identified, optimum treatment techniques, hydrotherapy and self care become clear and follow critical thinking guidelines. A seasoned massage therapist should be able to understand your somatic pathology and stage of healing and together with your input, figure out what will be most helpful.
Briefly described, the five stages of an inflammatory response are:
Marian Wolfe Dixon
MA, LMT (OR #3902)
NCTMB Approved Provider
Continuing Education for Massage Therapists, CHt, TCMBB.