The link between pain and inflammation

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is part of a complex biological response serving to help combat infection, restore injured tissues, and neutralise toxins. Besides helping to eliminate the initial cause of cell injury (such as a microbe or toxin), inflammation also helps clear out dead cells and damaged tissues in preparation for tissue repair.

Why can inflammation be harmful to the body?

In order to clear out dead cells and tissues, several different protein-degrading enzymes are produced during the inflammatory process. These enzymes are highly corrosive and dissolve any protein-based tissue, often at an astonishing rate. Protein-degrading enzymes are also the main defensive weapons used by white blood cells to destroy foreign microbial organisms. Since the caustic activity of these enzymes cannot be selectively contained within a specific region, collateral damage to structurally sound tissues commonly occurs. Over time, the rate of tissue damage overtakes the rate of repair, resulting in a nett loss of bodily tissue.

Why is inflammation also the leading cause of chronic pain?

Pain is perceived through specialised nerve cells (neurons) called nociceptors. Situated throughout the entire body, they respond to potentially damaging stimuli by sending pain signals to the brain via the spinal cord. This process, called nociception, is biochemically triggered by several different kinds of signalling molecules produced during inflammation. Chronic inflammation is therefore also the leading cause of both acute and chronic pain.

Painful conditions caused by chronic inflammation: