How To Move Without Pain

Understanding the Difference between Acute and Chronic Joint Inflammation

by Meghan Griech, PT, DPT, cert MDT, CKTP

This article takes 6 minutes to read

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Inflammation is a common and normal occurrence throughout our body, especially our joints.  Acute joint inflammation occurs as a result of the body’s natural immune response.  During this process, the body increases its white cell count to fight anything it recognizes as foreign, such as pollen, bacteria,  viruses, or chemical irritants in an attempt to heal itself. Inflammation can be good and bad for the body. Autoimmune disorders can cause the body to recognize healthy cells as foreign, causing our body’s inflammatory response to attack our own bodies. This inflammatory response is often prolonged, causing chronic joint inflammation often requiring medication attention for medication, diet changes and activity modification.  

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An inflammatory response will cause a release of antibodies and proteins into the blood flow to help heal the damaged area of the body. This process can last a couple of hours to days in an acute response.  Chronic inflammation happens when this response lingers for weeks or months, leaving your body in a constant state of alert and prolonged immune response. Over time, chronic inflammation may have a negative impact on your tissues and organs.

Common signs of inflammation include: 

  • Muscle stiffness
  • Fever
  • Rashes
  • Warmth of the joint
  • Joint pain
  • Joint stiffness
  • Inflammation can also present with ‘flu-like’ symptoms
    • Headache
    • Loss of appetite
    • Fatigue

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Chronic inflammation is linked to many diseases, even after the initial inflammation is gone. Chronic inflammation is linked to conditions like cancer, heart disease, asthma, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Many types of joint arthritis are a result of inflammation within and around the joint. 

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Gouty arthritis

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Treatments for joint inflammation can include rest, medication, physical therapy, or even surgery if joint tissues need repair. The goals of joint inflammation treatment are to reduce and ease the inflammatory response within the joint involved, correct and control the inflammation to slow down the inflammatory process and improve joint mobility. Additionally, avoiding or changing activities that aggravate pain is important to not cause a flare-up of inflammation. Managing pain through pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs is also often recommended by physicians.

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It’s important to keep joint movement and muscle strength at optimum levels through physical therapy, active movements, and general activities. If necessary, lowering stress on joints by using braces, splints, walkers, or canes may be helpful. 

Think about habits that could ease inflammation:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Quit smoking
  • Limit alcohol
  • Find ways to reduce stress
  • Talk to your pharmacist about supplements: omega-3 fatty acids, white willow bark, curcumin, green tea, or capsaicin. Magnesium and vitamins B6, C, D, and E also have some anti-inflammatory effects. Talk with your doctor before starting any supplement.

The foods we eat can also play a big role in inflammation. Eating a diet focused on food that will help ease the inflammation in your body, such as fruits and vegetables that are high in natural antioxidants can help. Researchers have also shown coffee may be helpful in reducing inflammation.

An example of an anti-inflammatory diet may include:

  • Tomatoes
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Olive Oil
  • Coffee
  • Nuts
  • Broccoli
  • Avocados
  • Green Teas
  • Peppers
  • Fruits: strawberries, cherries, blueberries
  • Fatty fish
  • Tumeric
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Grapes

Reducing inflammation through fruits and vegetables can help your body. Want to learn more about how foods from your fridge can help your body, reducing harmful processes within your system. In addition to filling your diet with nutritious anti-inflammatory ingredients, it’s important to also limit your consumption of foods that can promote inflammation, such as sugar, processed foods, fried foods, and processed meats.

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*Disclaimer: All information in this article is intended for instruction and informational purposes. The author(s) are not responsible for any harm or injury that may result.  This information is used to supplement not replace any advice you were provided from your doctor or another medical health professional.  No guarantees of specific results are expressly made or implied with this article.

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