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Inflammation – fitness friend or foe?

What’s the difference between useful and harmful inflammation, and can it even be beneficial if we are keeping fit?

Whether an ankle sprain or a muscle strain, our bodies are very good at letting us know we’ve pushed ourselves beyond our normal limits. Tears and bruises cause pain and swelling, signs we definitely need to rest the area. Such injuries are not to be ignored. However, when building fitness, we must push our bodies a little in order to see results and this also causes aches and pains. How do we know when to rest and when to continue?

Aches and pains that develop gradually and which are worst 24-72 hours after exercise are called DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness). This is a natural and helpful response to the stress exercise puts on our muscles and joints and, in fact, causes the body to rebuild stronger than before. Cycles of moderate but progressive exercise, followed by a few aches and a day off, is how fitness develops and this process shouldn’t be interrupted.

Sudden and prolonged pain, however, needs managing. Not eliminating, but managing. Inflammation is part of the healing process but we all have to go back to work and walk around the house or carry the shopping, so a balance has to be struck between allowing nature to take its course and remaining useful in the office and at home.

New activity, too much progression (increasing gym weights or running distance by more than 10% per week) and turning every training session into a competition are surefire ways to suffer an injury. That’s where arnica gel comes in.

Arnica gels, as opposed to the milder creams, are excellent for both pain and inflammation caused by injury or overload of muscles and joints, yet not so powerful as to stop healing taking place. Arnica gel is not the same as homeopathic arnica, which is used for shock. Look for a licensed gel to ensure quality and strength for best results and don’t be surprised if symptoms are improved within 10-20 minutes.

Arnica gel is not associated with any common side effects and is even safe to use during pregnancy, when injuries can happen due to changing hormones causing you to be a little clumsier and your joints are a little looser.

Read more news stories from Rude Health Magazine here