Time the secret killer

Dr Coralie Wales sums up the research ...

Human lifestyle activities can lead to an inflammatory burden which spills over into the experience of chronic pain. Unsurprisingly, inflammation is crucial in the experience of chronic pain. Inflammation, in which the immune system is strongly involved, functions to protect the human organism. We all understand the swelling, redness and pain associated with inflammation after an injury or when we are ill or coming down with an infection. When the injury or infection goes away, the symptoms go away too. However, since the early 1990’s researchers have been aware of a different type of inflammatory process characterised by low grade, systemic and chronic levels of inflammatory chemicals that are known to be associated with chronic metabolic diseases. This type of inflammatory process is called “metaflammation”. Professor Garry Egger, chair of Lifestyle Medicine at Southern Cross University notes that “the biggest distinction between pro- or anti-inflammatory inducers is a temporal one”. Most of the anti-inflammatory agents are those that have been around for thousands of years as humans have evolved. Those that enhance metaflammation are relatively new, he says, and date from the time of the industrial revolution. This article will identify features of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle which may be helpful in the management of chronic pain – among other chronic condition problems.

Chronic pain is pain that doesn’t go away when the injury or illness has resolved, and is thought to be daily pain that lasts for longer than 3 or 6 months. It can also be associated with chronic disease or injury, eg arthritis, lupus, cancer or even ongoing infection post injury. Medically unexplained pain is particularly problematic, being pain that cannot be explained by an injury or illness. 

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