Inflammation: The Propagator of Dis-ease

In the last post it was discussed how physical symptoms are the most external symptom of dis-ease, and that it is the underlying deep seated stress creating tension in the myofasica that impacts the underlying bones, joints and organs.  Inflammation also has a role. When there is tension from stress in the myofascia it creates areas of muscle constriction, which promotes friction and inflammation at the cellular level.     

Inflammation does not have to be profound to be present in the body. In fact, inflammation is designed to support healing in an acute process and evolved as a way to protect the body from infection and injury.  However, when it becomes chronic, as with stress, it creates a maladaptive response.  To understand this better, it is important to have an understanding of how the inflammatory process works. 

There are 3 main stages of inflammation:

  1. Acute stage – lasts 3 to 5 days and involves activation of the inflammatory cycle;
  2. Sub acute stage – lasts 2 days to 8 weeks and involves regeneration of tissue;
  3. Chronic stage – lasts >8 weeks (up to 12 months or longer) and involves scar tissue maturation as well as tissue remodeling. It is this chronic stage remodeling that creates changes in cellular memory.  

The inflammatory cycle is notable for it’s 5 cardinal signs: calor (heat), dolor (pain), rubor (redness), tumor (swelling), and functio laesa (loss of function).   The process is as follows:

  • a  tissue injury/trauma/stress, for example, an ankle sprain, causes the release of cytokines from damaged cells.  Cytokines are small proteins important for cell signaling (i.e. histamine, prostaglandins, bradykinin);
  • the release of cytokines has multiple effects:
    • vasodilation of blood cells, which results in increased blood flow creating redness (rubor) and heat (calor)
    • vascular permeability (leakage of fluid from blood cells) into the surrounding tissues which creates swelling (tumor) that splints the area resulting in loss of function (functio laesa) as well as isolation of the injured tissue from the surrounding normal tissue cells; 
    • and attraction of white blood cells, known as neutrophils, to the area which act as little garbage trucks, collecting and eating cellular debris in a process known as phagocytosis.

Inflammation enters the sub-acute stage once this process is completed.  During this phase, new cellular matrix is generated and laid down via anabolic mechanisms.  This process takes anywhere from 2 days to 8 weeks depending on the extent of tissue injury/trauma/stress.  Once this stage is completed the cycle enters the chronic inflammation stage.  It is here that tissue remodeling and scar tissue maturation occur with resulting changes in cellular memory to complete the physical healing process.  The total time to completion varies depending on the extent of the tissue injury/trauma/stress and may last up to a couple of years.  It is this phase that is impacted by chronic tissue trauma/stress.  When present, these factors perpetuate the cycle of inflammation, and because there is no acute tissue injury/trauma/stress, there may not be any overt symptoms.

A properly functioning inflammatory process promotes healing through restoration of homeostasis.  Chronic stress has been demonstrated to dysregulate this process through a sustained state of hyper vigilance resulting in maintained levels of circulating cortisol in the bloodstream.  This perpetuates the process by creating chronic low levels of stress-provoked inflammation.

A visual to piece it all together: 

Inflammatory Process Diagram_011118-page-001.jpg

As is depicted in the diagram, the persistent stressor results in chronic levels of inflammation that promotes altered cellular memory. 

Stay tuned for the next chapter.

Much love and gratitude,

Kristen