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  27 May 2021

Swelling: as a sign of injury

  27 May 2021

Swelling: as a sign of injury

After an injury, our human body form predictable inflammatory response, as the first step towards healing. Redness, heat, pain and also sweling associated with this initial stage.

Causes of swelling

The enlargement of skin or muscles is visible as external swelling.  It caused due to the increased movement of fluid and white blood cells into the injured area. The release of chemicals and the compression of nerves in the area of injury cause pain.

A range of facts can cause external swelling. Insect bites, various illnesses, or accidents often result in external swelling. There are also sometimes internal swelling which often occurred as side effect of a medication or the result of a serious injury.

Good and Bad side

Immediate swelling is well required for tissue repair. It releases enzymes that break down tissue, along with anabolic factors and cells that re-build tissue. Prolong swelling is almost always harmful, as those same enzymes have already done their job and now attack healthy tissue. 

There is a wonderful and mysterious balance between when is swelling good, and when is swelling bad. The question for doctors and patients is: What is the timing for swelling reduction, and what is the optimal way to do it? With advances in technology, we will get better at exposing the injured tissue to the optimal components of swelling for just the right amount of time.

How is swelling treated?

  • Protect by further damage

That means immobilization with a wrap, or even just staying off the body part.


  • Rest for avoiding prolonging irritation

Movement is good, and can increase healing, but it should be pain free at this stage. 


  • Ice (cold) treatment for controlling pain or bleeding.

Leaving ice on longer actually reverses the effect it has, and may increase swelling. Vise versa, heat will increase the swelling.


  • Compression for controlling swelling

Compression, with an ace wrap, minimizes swelling.


  • Elevation for decreasing bleeding and edema

Resting with the injury above heart level encourages swelling to return towards the body.


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