by Gardener

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“Chronic inflammation this” and “chronic inflammation that”. The term is being used a lot, typically in discussions about common health issues. While this connection may be true. From one point of view, many of us can relate to some of those nagging health issues and blame inflammation. On the other hand, actually very few of us know what chronic inflammation is.

By asking 4 common questions about chronic inflammation I venture out in the digital cosmos to find out more. Of course, instead of asking for an expert for an opinion, like any self-respecting internet literate, I jump straight to a search engine of choice. All in hope of shedding some more light on the subject. As I believe most of us would be better off mentally and physically if we could self-diagnose better, act accordingly, and communicate it properly as well.

What Is Chronic Inflammation?

As touched upon in the article Sauna And Its Possible Effects On Inflammation, “Chronic inflammation is a way the cells in an inflamed joint or muscle deal with an injury or if it has been overworked repeatedly for a longer time. You might have experienced this in the form of overtraining or perhaps as a “tennis-elbow”… “In a similar way, but from causes such as foreign chemicals or the body`s own overproduction of other substances. Cells in the body can react and create chronic inflammation.”

But don’t take my word for it. Before moving on to the next section covering the causes of chronic inflammation, ingest the following quote to remove some doubts that I am not completely talking out of my ass on this subject. As in an article published on PubMed, a web site for medical-related reports and papers, the following is stated:

“Chronic inflammation is also referred to as slow, long-term inflammation lasting for prolonged periods of several months to years. Generally, the extent and effects of chronic inflammation vary with the cause of the injury and the ability of the body to repair and overcome the damage.” [1]

What Causes Chronic Inflammation In The Body? 

The causes, as briefly mentioned can be many and different. These can be biochemical in nature, like a long-lasting overproduction of the body’s own substances. Apart from these, you have mechanical causes, which can be overtraining or bad and repetitive work practices.

Whichever they are, I believe they can be summed up as repetitive physical or chemical continuing stressors without the chance of the right kind of recovery.

The reason I mention recovery is that as much as some things can be stressful and damaging to one’s health. Comparatively, the same kind of stress can be healthy if it is in a balance between rest and exercise. For instance, physical workout falls under that description. When overdone or not enough rest is taken, then those back to back days of power-walking can lead to muscle or joint inflammation. 

That is nothing new to some of us. “Just stick it out” or “it will pass” is some of the inner talk that goes through us in those situations. But, do it for too long, and too frequent and you have something that you have to stick with without it passing.

Basically, the longer and more often such an activity is undertaken the longer it takes for the body to heal and get rid of the inflammation. Now in some cases even with many days of rest you still have a nagging joint or muscle soreness. Congratulations, you have gotten yourself a chronic inflammation which can last for months and in some cases years.

In conclusion, to answer the question fully and explain the why of the causes, we have to look at it as a chain of steps. Inflammation is a protective and healing body-system, that works in our favor. But, if this system is overactive or used for too long without proper breaks it turns chronic and goes against us. Leading to things like pain, diarrhea, gassiness, skin rashes, discomfort, reduced mobility, or damage to organs.

How Can You Tell If You Have Chronic Inflammation?

The easiest way to tell if you have chronic inflammation, but with the reservation that what you could have something completely different and more severe. That would be if you are experiencing a prolonged reduced function in a part of your body. 

Remembering that the keyword here is prolonged, then below you will find some examples of how you can tell you have chronic inflammation.

8 ways how you can tell you have chronic inflammation

Joint pain
Reduced mobility
Muscle soreness
Balance problems
Muscle weakness
Sore, runny or dry eyes

Like mentioned before, inflammation is also a biochemical process in your body. Being such, there can also be inflammation happening inside of your body without you sensing them directly as reduced function or pain. For these types of signs of chronic inflammation, you would need the assistance of medical professionals and medical tests to be able to tell.

As much as there can be signs of chronic inflammation, so can these be signs of other and more severe things. Therefore, as much as some of us want to self-diagnose, it is better to leave the diagnosis to the medical professionals for the following signs.

  • Insuline resistance
  • Arteriosclerosis
  • Blood clotting
  • Brain dysfunction

Stuff We Like For Joint And Muscle Recovery

What Are Some Examples Of Chronic Inflammation?

Well, as tempting as it is to just list whatever has been mentioned already. Especially, those signs that may appear due to inflammation. Like muscle weakness and diarrhea. But to list examples of chronic inflammation as things that are actually effects is not fair. The examples of chronic inflammation would in such cases be the causes for the signs mentioned before in the list.

Further, to no surprise, examples of chronic inflammation would neither be the starting causes of inflammation. As a gym work-out is never viewed as inflammation. Then to hone down on what are examples of chronic inflammation, we have to look somewhere in-between the original cause and what we might be feeling in a joint.

I have briefly touched upon this before, so I might come across as a broken record. But it is worth mentioning again that under certain circumstances like injury, infections, or bad food intake, the body may react with inflammation to try to heal. The body’s inflammatory reaction can include an increase of blood to the affected area and the production of biochemical compounds such as antibodies and proteins [2].

So, examples of chronic inflammation are when one or more of these things continue being produced and being present for a longer time than it is supposed to. In such a case for a longer time than they would work as the body’s healing factors.

Now the body is not only reacting to the long-term injury, infections, or toxic food intake, but also to the factors that supposed to make you well in the first place. Those so-called inflammatory healing factors are now hanging around creating more damage than good. In totality, the body’s prolonged inflammatory reaction is now turned into a chronic one.

The Good, The Bad And The Worse

To wrap up things, we need inflammation to some extent in our bodies to cope with injury and infections. But, too much of the good thing like work and inflammation is bad. Have those to stick around for a while without proper recovery and it will be a chronic kind of bad. To add to the misery cake, you can continue what you are doing wrongfully to yourself, setting you up for even more severe conditions like cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, and diabetes [3] [4].

Finally, in my opinion, with what has been dug out, chronic inflammation is then not only the body’s own prolonged reaction to a stressor but how we actively interact with signals from our body for a prolonged period. That is to say, chronically doing the same negative thing despite those nagging signals that are actually telling you to stop. 

Chronic inflammation is therefore all of those steps in that chain of dominos. Together they are your body’s nagging voice that shouts to you to stop. So, to prevent, cope with, and heal, we need first and foremost to raise awareness of the many steps of that chain. Because being aware of just the body’s nagging voice of constant pain or discomfort might be too little and too late. We have to learn to listen better to the totality of a condition and adapt.

If you would like to dive deeper into the subject of chronic inflammation, then we invite you to read the article What is chronic inflammation and why is it bad? by Artem Belov. The following is an excerpt from that article.

“In healthy people, this plaque is harmless, yet coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. It can take decades before things go wrong. The plaque can break off and cause a blockage, or it can open and cause a blood clot to form, preventing blood flow to a vital organ. Both situations can lead to a heart attack, a stroke, or chronic kidney damage.” – Artem Belov

Cover Photo by Nino Liverani via Unsplash

[1] Pahwa R, Goyal A, Bansal P, et al. Chronic Inflammation. [Updated 2020 Mar 2]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from:

[2] Bienvenu J. Les protéines de la réaction inflammatoire. Définition, physiologie et méthodes de dosage [Proteins of the inflammatory reaction. Definition, physiology and methods for determination]. Ann Biol Clin (Paris). 1984;42(1):47-52.

[3] Straub, R. H., & Schradin, C. (2016). Chronic inflammatory systemic diseases: An evolutionary trade-off between acutely beneficial but chronically harmful programs. Evolution, medicine, and public health2016(1), 37–51.

[4] Furman, D., Campisi, J., Verdin, E., Carrera-Bastos, P., Targ, S., Franceschi, C., Ferrucci, L., Gilroy, D. W., Fasano, A., Miller, G. W., Miller, A. H., Mantovani, A., Weyand, C. M., Barzilai, N., Goronzy, J. J., Rando, T. A., Effros, R. B., Lucia, A., Kleinstreuer, N., & Slavich, G. M. (2019). Chronic inflammation in the etiology of disease across the life span. Nature medicine25(12), 1822–1832.