What Is Inflammation?

Inflammation is part of the process the body uses to respond to and fight off harmful stimuli1 and to heal damaged tissue.

When the body is injured or comes under attack from bacteria, viruses, or other harmful substances, it responds by sending white blood cells and chemicals to the affected area in an attempt to fix the problem. This causes inflammation, which is a sign that the body is trying to protect itself. This process can occur within minutes of an injury and is usually a short-term response.

Signs of Inflammation

There are five primary signs of inflammation:

  • pain
  • redness
  • swelling
  • heat
  • loss of function (weakness)

Not everyone will experience all of these signs every time there is inflammation, and some people may not even be aware of the signs. In fact, muscle weakness may be so mild that it isn't even noticeable and may only be discovered with testing.

Inflammation & Pain

Following tissue injury, a number of chemicals known as inflammatory mediators get released from damaged cells2. These mediators act by different mechanisms to cause pain: some of these mediators directly activate sensory receptors that respond to painful stimuli resulting in the feeling of pain2; some mediators lead to the release of additional inflammatory mediators2; and some mediators change the properties of neurons in different locations in the nervous system making them more sensitive to stimuli and/or increasing their response to stimuli2. Collectively, the release of different inflammatory mediators after tissue injury results in pain by several ways.

Pain may be reduced/ relieved by different classes of medications that act on different pathways or inflammatory mediators. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory (NSAID) medications is a class of pain killers that reduce pain from inflammation by inhibiting the production of a class of inflammatory mediators known as prostaglandins2. Ibuprofen is a type of an NSAID.