Acute and chronic inflammation

Inflammation occurs as part of our body’s immune response, where chemicals and white blood cells are released to fight off foreign invaders, infections or injuries.

Signs of inflammation include;


  • Redness
  • Heat
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Loss of Function

Acute Inflammation


Typically inflammation is a normal part of the acute healing process, typically occurring in the first 48- 72 hours, for a number of injuries including;

  • Tendonitis
  • Acute Muscle strains
  • Acute Sprains
  • Acute Fractures
  • Repetitive / overuse injuries

As inflammation is a normal response that allows our body to heal, it is throught that some inflammation can be beneficial, however this can limit function! To help to control inflammation responses for acute injuries, the acronym PRICE is recommended!

  • PROTECTION: Protect the area using bracing, taping or padding as needed to limit re-injury.
  • REST: Offloading the area by minimizing use of the area and if needed the use of crutches or mobility aids.
  • ICE: As per our previous blog post on Heat verses Ice , the use of ice/ cold compression is recommended to treat acute inflammation by slowing body responses to the area.
  • COMPRESSION: Compression through wraps or braces is recommended to reduce swelling from inflammation.
  • ELEVATION: Finally, elevation is recommended to reduce swelling and blood flow to the injured area- slowing the ability for the body’s chemical responses to the injury to the area!  

Additionally, there is some evidence for anti-inflammatories and other physiotherapy techniques including modalities to help to reduce acute inflammation!

Chronic Inflammation

As stated, inflammation is normal in the early or acute stages of healing, but what happens when inflammation occurs for weeks, months or years?? This long-term inflammatory response can occur in a number of diseases and chronic conditions where inflammation responses are triggered by non- harmful stimuli. This is what we would call an autoimmune response and/ or chronic inflammatory response commonly seen in conditions including;

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Psoraisis
  • Gout
  • As well, it is possibly related to osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and long term neck and back pain.

For these conditions, the body is not fighting off foreign invaders or healing damaged tissues, but rather is attacking itself! This can cause long-term pain, disabilities and reduced function. Treatment for these conditions includes appropriate medical management, protection of acute flare-ups as well as physiotherapy for exercise, modalities and activity modification!

If you have sustained an acute injury causing inflammation or would like physiotherapy input to help manage your chronic inflammation, book in to speak with a physiotherapist today at 045-853726 or online at

Also for more information, check out the blog post at

By: Tara Moore MISCP



Nicklas, BJ, and Brinkley, TE. 2009. Exercise training as a treatment for chronic inflammation in the elderly. Exercise and Sport Science Reviews, 37(4), 165-170.

PhysioAdvisor Staff. Nd. Inflammatory pain.  Retrieved from

PubMed Health. 2015. What is an inflammation? Retrieved from

Tenenbaum, J. 2005. Inflammatory musculoskeletal conditions in older adults. Geriatrics and Aging, 8(3), 14-17

WebMD, 2018. What is inflammation? Retrieved from

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