or chemical (for example, if a given cell is spitting out immune messengers that signal there is damage within that cell), feedback is catapulted up to the brain. The damage alert! message is cascaded back down the vagus nerve — the primary nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system — which then communicates to that area of damage how to marshal an inflammation response. That’s not to say that local inflammation doesn’t exist, notes Levins, but mostly inflammation is a reflexive arc moderated by the nervous system. “So more and more, what I end up doing with patients is helping them strive for a balance within the neurologic system.” In lay terms, that means adding more relaxation and exercise into your life. When Inflammation Strikes As our knowledge about inflammation increases, so does our skill in dealing with it. Health-care practitioners now understand that inflammation doesn’t always have to be minimized; after all, the human body is purpose-built, well-adapted, infinitely wise and generally able to heal itself. So don’t reach for the ice right away. “With the new research in the last two or three years, physiotherapists have changed their stance,” explains physiotherapist
Inflammation doesn’t always have to be minimized; after all, the human body is purpose-built, welladapted, infinitely wise and generally able to heal itself. Felicity Klimstra, who completed her masters at UBC. “We used to say ice all inflammation, but now we know that inflammation is the body’s process of dealing with that trauma.” Whether to ice or not depends on the severity of the inflammation, so it’s a caseby-case decision. The important thing, says Klimstra, is to listen to your body. Counter to what you might think, movement is one of the best ways to kickstart the healing process. “Our initial reaction to pain is to not move [the area],” says Klimstra. “But walking around and using the muscle through its range of motion tends to mobilize some of the inflammation. It gets pumped out of those
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areas by the blood’s movement through the veins.” The increased circulation as a result of movement drives nutrients to the area for better healing. In the case of a sore back, which Klimstra sees a lot of, movement and stability exercises form the backbone (sorry) of the treatment process. “It’s individual for each patient, but these pathologies need to be stabilized within a healthy range of movement.” Klimstra recommends keeping the discomfort meter tuned to about a three out of 10, and doing movement and stability work within that. Stability work is just what it sounds like: getting the stress off the bones and ligaments that are bearing more than their share of the burden at the problem site, and doing stability work in that optimal posture. So for a habitual sloucher, say, stability work means sitting in proper alignment and then recruiting the deep core muscles to control your body while in that good posture through a progressively more demanding series of movements (e.g. sitting; then walking; then doing lunges). Over time, stability and exercise will improve that chronic inflammation. “Motion is lotion,” says Klimstra. You can cool the inflammation cascade with better choices at the grocery store, too.
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