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Is inflammation good or bad?

Inflammation is a protective reaction of the body against injury or infection. Typical signs of inflammation include swelling, heat, redness and pain, and has historically been viewed as something that needs to be dissipated quickly. Current thinking considers inflammation to be a very necessary part of our internal defence system and that is may not always be something we want to inhibit. However, the body tends to overreact with injury and create too much inflammation which is why you can experience severe pain.

More recently, scientists have discovered a new component of inflammation called the 'pro-resolving' programme, which stimulates wound healing and repair of damaged tissue. Typically during an inflammatory response there will always be waste products where the body has engulfed the bacteria or injury, and cells die. These cells need to be removed and the damaged tissue repaired. The pro-resolving factors are the ones in charge of tissue repair and do not produce any collateral damage to tissue.

The discovery of pro-resolving factors could change the way inflammation is treated. In the past, the typical way of treating inflammation was to try and reduce the action of pro-inflammatory components in order to reduce tissue damage. Today's thinking is to increase the action of the pro-resolving factors to start the healing process more quickly. In fact, the pro-inflammatory factors actually stimulate the release of pro-resolving factors, so if we stop inflammation the body will be slow to repair the injured tissue.

Furthermore, pro-resolving factors show promising benefits to chronic pain sufferers (rheumatic disease, migraine, and neuropathies) by inhibiting central and peripheral sensitisations.

Chavez-Castillo, M. et al. (2021). Specialised pro-resolving lipid mediators: The future of chronic pain therapy?. National Library of Medicine. 22(19): 10370.

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