The Inflammatory Response & Pain
By Peter Thompson
DC, DO, MSc
Chiropractor & Osteopath
The Inflammatory Response occurs when cells are injured or killed by such causes as physical trauma, bacteria or viral invasion. As a result of trauma or microbial invasion, our tissue cell membranes rupture or become excessively porous. The damaged cells release chemicals including histamine, bradykinin and prostaglandin.
These chemicals have two major effects. First of all, they react with the local blood vessels. They make the walls of the blood vessels porous, thereby allowing a leaking of fluid from the vessel into the space between the cells (Interstitial space). This is the characteristic ‘swelling’ associated with inflammation. This fluid engorgement compresses the local tissue, irritates the nerves and often results in pain. This fluid also carries the building blocks of repair, large molecules that bind and seal tissue damage. This binding process results in fibrous adhesion. It can bind tissues, such as organs or muscles too tightly together. This can have adverse effects on the function of these tissues.
The second important effect of the chemicals released from the cells is that they attract white blood cells, called phagocytes, to the region of damage. These cells ‘eat’ invading cells and dead or damaged body cells. This is called phagocytosis. During this ‘battle’ many phagocytes will die. The result is the creation of pus, formed by the coagulation of debris including dead cells, bacteria and phagocytes. When it is expressed from the body it is called exudate. The release of chemicals such as those mentioned above is the result of damage to tissues of the body. Even if a particular event is not life threatening, it still needs to be managed quickly and effectively. One important defense mechanism in such an event is to activate the bodies alarm system, pain. As we all have experienced, the body has a great capacity to turn on these alarms. However, particularly in slowly developing, chronic cases the nervous system may switch off many of the pain alarm circuits. This is necessary for the organism to keep functioning as long term, strong pain can have devastating effects on any organism.
Therefore, it is important to always take heed of pain. Don’t dismiss it as irrelevant or simply inconvenient.