Inflammation is the body’s response to injury or an infection. Trauma, burns, sports injuries, and foreign bodies such as a splinter or bacteria entering a cut in your skin are common causes.
Inflammation is one of the methods your body uses to protect itself from further injury and to prepare damaged tissue for healing. Once begun, acute inflammation has only a few possible resolutions; it goes away on its own, scar tissue forms, an abscess or cyst forms, or the condition becomes chronic.
Signs of Inflammation
The basic signs of inflammation include:
- heat (regional fever)
- loss of function or range of motion.
Stages of Inflammation
There are three stages of inflammation:
- Acute – The beginning stage when damaged cells release chemicals that kick start the immune system. Fluid begins to build up in the area causing edema, or swelling. This stage may last 1-3 days, during which massage of the area should not be performed.
- Subacute – This stage is when cells begin to fill in damaged tissue with new collagen fibers. Swelling may begin to subside and your pain level will likely reach a constant point. This stage typically lasts 2-3 weeks during which light stretching and gentle massage can be performed and may relieve pain.
- Postacute – During this stage, the new collagen begins to take shape and becomes stronger. The fibers can be manipulated and stretched to align to lie with the original uninjured tissue. If these collagen fibers aren’t properly aligned, they can become scar tissue that can be a source of chronic pain. Massage therapy during this stage is vital to reducing the formation of scar tissue and preventing long-term mobility issues and pain.
During the acute stage immediately after an injury, you should follow the R.I.C.E. guidelines
- Rest – Immediately stop using the affected body part.
- Ice – Apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel for 20 minutes every hour.
- Compression (use of an Ace wrap or spandex brace).
- Elevation – the affected body part should be lifted above the heart whenever possible.
During the subacute stage, a supportive device, such as a splint or brace can help prevent further injury. The use of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen (Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) can help reduce swelling and speed recovery. Ice can be applied as needed.
The postacute stage is when you should absolutely order a mobile massage therapy session with me. Massage treatment at this stage can help keep an injury from becoming a life-long chronic problem. You should not take any NSAIDs prior to a massage session, as the pain relief provided by the medication can cause you to allow more pressure than the area should be subjected to. This can cause re-injury and start the cycle all over again.
Massage at Any Stage
When you are in the acute stage of inflammation, direct manipulation or massage of the area should not be performed, however, supportive muscles and other areas of the body can be massaged.
It is very important to communicate any recent injuries or surgeries so that I can assess the area and plan an appropriate treatment.
Direct massage of an infection site or open wounds should never be performed.