How to Reduce Inflammation

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Things You'll Need

  • Icepack
  • Soap
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug
Inflammation often strikes joints.
Inflammation often strikes joints. (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Your body responds to tissue injury and infection with an inflammatory reaction designed to restore the involved site to its normal state. Although the scale of the reaction differs, inflammation is fundamentally the same whether it develops due to a bump on your shin or a life-threatening infection. Inflammation causes predictable signs and symptoms, including redness, heat, swelling and pain. Reducing inflammation alleviates these signs and symptoms, which is useful if you sustain a painful injury or suffer from a chronic inflammatory disease. Physical measures and medications serve as the primary mechanisms to reduce inflammation.

Step 1

Apply an icepack to painful injuries on or near the skin surface, such as sprains, strains, bruises and minor burns. Ice also works well for alleviating the inflammation associated with an arthritis flare-up or bursitis. Leave the icepack in place for 20 to 30 minutes; repeat every two to three hours. Blood vessels in the injured area constrict in response to the cold temperature, leading to reduction of the swelling and pain components of the inflammatory reaction. Continue applying ice for one to three days, depending on the severity of the injury and the associated pain and swelling.

Step 2

Remove any inflammatory triggers; this is not nearly as complicated as it sounds. Inflammation normally develops in response to a physical trigger, which can be an injury, germs or a foreign substance. As long as the trigger persists, the inflammatory reaction continues full bore. Conversely, removing the trigger reduces inflammation. For example, if you fall off your bicycle and scrape your hands and knees, you must clean all of the dirt and debris out of the wounds for the inflammatory reactions at these sites to subside. Similarly, if you develop an inflammatory skin reaction in response to a chemical in your environment, washing the offending substance off your skin and avoiding further contact are essential to alleviating the inflammation.

Step 3

If your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, antifungal, antiparasitic or antiviral medication, take all of the medicine as directed. These medications aid in the removal of living inflammation triggers, including bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. As your infection clears, the associated inflammatory reaction resolves.

Step 4

Begin a short course of therapy with a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID, if needed. All medications in this group reduce inflammation by disrupting the intricate chemical signaling necessary to sustain an inflammatory reaction. Over-the-counter NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium; there are several other prescription NSAIDs. The anti-inflammatory actions of these medications account for their pain-relieving effects.

Step 5

Take anti-inflammatory medications as prescribed by your doctor for chronic inflammatory conditions. Ongoing inflammation characterizes several common diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Reducing inflammation proves vital to controlling the organ and tissue destruction associated with these diseases. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone and cortisone, and other immune system regulators remain cornerstones of treatment for chronic inflammatory diseases.

Tip

  • Apply ice to an injury as soon as possible after it occurs to minimize swelling and inflammation.

    Do not apply ice directly to your skin; wrap it in a towel if you do not have an icepack available.

    Call your doctor or go to the nearest emergency medical facility if your condition worsens.

Warning

  • NSAIDs can cause serious side effects, including gastrointestinal bleeding and an increased risk for a heart attack or stroke. Review the warning label on over-the-counter NSAIDs and use only as directed. Contact your doctor if you have questions about whether it is safe for you to take one of these medications.

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