Acute Inflammation

One of the biggest misconceptions regarding acute inflammation is that its a bad thing and efforts should be made to reduce it. This could not be any more wrong. Inflammation is the first part of healing and is necessary for improvement. Any effort to reduce inflammation will delay healing. We will break down the phases of acute inflammation to reinforce this point.

We are going to be looking at the acute phase of inflammation as there seems to be the most confusion here. This phase begins immediately after any injury and lasts for 3 days. I’ll do my best to keep it as brief and simple as I can. There are three types of changes that occur in this stage:

  1. Vascular changes
  2. Cellular changes
  3. Chemical changes

Vascular Changes

Vasodilation (opening of blood vessels) begins 15 minutes after injury and lasts several hours. Vessel permeability increases (cells can flow through vessel walls easier)

Exudate (protein rich fluid) enters the area. This starts the healing response. Exudate presents as visible swelling, bruising, warmth and temporary loss of function (source)

These signs/symptoms are NECESSARY for healing to occur. Anyone trying to decrease/delay this from occurring is going to slow your healing

Acute inflammation vs chronic inflammation

Cellular Changes and Acute Inflammation

Most important change here is the accumulation of white blood cells. Phagocytes (primarily neutrophils) eat the debris from the damaged tissue

Most of these are in the blood. However, if trauma is severe enough, more are released from the bone marrow. These white blood cells enter the injured area via the increased vessel permeability. When these cells are at the site of injury days/weeks after injury, chronic inflammation has set in

Chemical Changes

The movement of the white blood cells mentioned above are made possible by chemotactic factors. The movement of white blood cells through the blood vessels is known as chemotaxis

There are a number of chemical compounds that influence and get the inflammation cascade starting. I’m not here to write a paper so we will address one. Histamine triggers the vasodilation and vessel permeability needed for the healing process to begin

This is a gross over simplification of the acute inflammation phase


Inflammation is not bad at all

The healing process requires it. Any efforts to slow or reduce this effect will reduce the ability to heal.

One of the most common ways to reduce inflammation is through the use of anti-inflammatory drugs. These have dangerous side effects as well as being detrimental to healing. Read more here.