Melbourne at this time of year is at the height of hay-fever season. Runny noses, itchy eyes and dry throats are all on the rise. It should come as no surprise to hay-fever sufferers that allergies effect the entire body and, more importantly, the body’s ability to heal itself.
In your initial consultation at Melbourne Osteopathy Sports Injury Centre you may remember being asked about allergies, and if you have any food intolerances. At the time, this might have seemed odd, particularly if your visit was regarding neck or back pain or some other musculoskeletal complaint. But there is an important link that deserves explaining.
This article forms Part 3 of our series exploring the importance of detailed Medical Histories. For further information, please have a read of Part 1 (Why do your previous injuries matter?) and Part 2 (Workstation Ergonomics).
Allergies are an overreaction by the body’s immune system to a particular protein. These proteins can occur in foods, pollens, house dust, animal hair or moulds. A person with allergies will display an increased level of inflammation within their system. Normally this would be a healthy sign that the body is trying to heal itself, as inflammation is an important part of the immune response. However, in persons with allergies, this inflammatory response can be unregulated and often leads to tissue destruction.
When inflammation occurs in the joints, it can cause serious damage. For example, Rheumatoid Arthritis leads to severe pain and stiffness due to increased joint inflammation. In instances like this, the body’s inflammatory process is counter productive and is in fact doing more harm than good.
Inflammation throughout the body can also interfere with bone growth and lead to bone loss. This is thought to be linked to inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (as with inflammatory bowel disease). This type of inflammation can be especially detrimental to bone health as it prevents the absorption of important bone-building nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D. Food intolerances such as gluten sensitivity, dairy or fructose malabsorption lead to a state of higher than normal inflammation in the gut, which can also be very detrimental.
The same process applies to soft tissue damage. Every time you bump your leg, strain a muscle or sprain a ligament, the body works to heal these injuries by producing inflammation. The initial signs of inflammation are redness, swelling, pain, heat, and loss of function. In a healthy individual this inflammatory phase usually lasts 24-72 hours from the time of the initial injury. In allergy sufferers with an increased level of circulating inflammation, this stage may last much longer and be more debilitating.
Any acute injury will be coupled with inflammation, so when you present to the clinic we always need to know if any underlying issues may have increased your inflammatory response, as this can delay the healing time of your injury. In addition, this information will enable us to help educate you in ways to manage the other inflammatory processes in your body.
So next time you find yourself sneezing, or itching your eyes, remember that this inflammation may be affecting you on a broader scale. And, as health practitioners, if we can help you manage other inflammatory processes in your body, we will be better equipped to help you with managing your injury in the long term.
Dr Aidan Sianidis is an experienced Osteopath at Melbourne Osteopathy Sports Injury Centre. He has a keen interest in shoulder, elbow, neck and jaw injuries and the way in which many of these problems interrelate with one another.