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Swelling comes in many forms and can be caused by a lot of things. For the most part, swelling is a sudden localized enlargement or abnormal protuberance of an organ. A sudden blunt force on the bone or insect bite can lead to swelling of any kind of organ. And, pregnant women often experience swelling of their legs.
Most people experience pain along with their swelling. There are plenty of products out there that claim to relieve swelling and its associated pain, but rarely are they able to do so effectively. Fortunately, there are many home remedies that are affordable and will rid you of swelling.
What Causes Swelling?
Swelling is the enlargement of your skin, organs, or other body parts. It is generally the result of a buildup of fluid or inflammation. It can affect your muscles and skin or occur internally. Swelling is caused by a range of conditions. Illnesses, injuries, and insect bites typically produce external swelling. A more serious injury or medication might cause internal swelling.
External swelling comes from inflammation in your tissues, muscles, or bones. Visible swelling is also common with tumors and cysts. Fluid retention may also cause external swelling, though it is generally an internal condition.
External swelling is commonly caused by:
- Hormonal changes
- Fluid retention
- Insect bites
The external swelling may be widespread or localized.
When just one specific area is swollen, it is referred to as localized swelling. For instance, you will probably only experience swelling around the eyes when you have an eye infection. Similarly, if a bee stings you, you will probably only have swelling in the area of the sting.
On the other hand, when a large area of your body is inflamed, it is known as widespread swelling. This is generally a sign of something more serious. It is typically due to an allergic reaction or fluid retention. However, anaphylaxis (severe allergic reactions), kidney failure, venomous insect bites, and heart failure can also cause widespread swelling.
Widespread swelling as well as swelling of the toes, fingers, and other extremities can occur in people with certain types of cancer or diabetes. This may only be a periodic issue. Swelling inside your body is usually the result of fluid retention, flatulence, or organ inflammation. People with Crohn’s disease, cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, and other chronic diseases will often experience internal inflammation.
Inflammation vs Edema Vs Swelling: What’s the Difference?
Inflammation occurs when chemicals from the body’s white blood cells are released into your blood or affected tissues to protect your body from foreign substances. There is an increase in the blood flow to the area of the infection or injury due to the release of chemicals. This may result in warmth and redness. Swelling results when some of the chemicals cause a leak of fluid into the tissues.
On the other hand, edema is caused by excess fluid trapped in the body’s tissue. The swelling caused by edema usually occurs in the legs, hands, feet, ankles, and arms. It is typically linked to the lymphatic or venous system. Formerly known as hydropsy or dropsy, edema may be localized or widespread.
As you can see, swelling is a more general condition involving the enlargement of an area or body part and is present in both inflammation and edema.
Natural Home Remedies for Swelling
Whether it is from inflammation, edema, or some other source, swelling can be a real pain if not treated. When this happens, you should turn to the power of natural nutrients and herbs found around the home. But, what helps with swelling? Here are a few solutions for how to make swelling go down:
White Willow Bark
As the name might suggest, white willow bark comes from the bark of a white willow tree. Before you begin peeling the bark off of trees and brewing your own concoction, you must make sure that you are excellent at identifying trees. For thousands of years, this herbal cure has been prized for its ability to reduce inflammation and fever. It contains a compound very similar to aspirin known as salicin. The medical research backs up white willow bark’s effectiveness in helping alleviate lower back pain.
How to reduce swelling with white willow bark: it is available as a tea, as a tincture, or in powder form in capsules. Combination pain relief supplements also often have white willow bark as an ingredient. Even if you are not experiencing swelling, you should consider having a bottle of white willow on hand if you tend to get headaches or other pain from the pressure changes associated with air travel.
For many years, ice and heat have been used to reduce swelling and treat pain. Temperature therapy is a safe treatment when used sensibly, and it can make your swollen area feel better. This treatment is especially popular after an injury. For about the first 48 to 72 hours after the injury, you should primarily just use ice. After that time period, you can alternate between hot and cold compresses.
How to reduce swelling with temperature therapy: ice is used first to immediately reduce muscle pain and spasm, decrease bleeding into the tissues, reduce pain by limiting the effects of swelling and by numbing the area, and to assuage or prevent inflammation. Ice packs are made by putting ice chunks or cubes in a wet tea towel or plastic bag. Frozen peas will also work. Apply for 20 to 30 minutes every two to three hours. Do not apply the ice directly to the skin.
Do not use heat on a new injury since it could make the problem worse by increasing bleeding under the skin around the injured area. Heat can be applied in the form of a hot water bottle, wheat bag, heat lamp, deep heat cream, or a heating pad.
You may not have realized it, but when you are eating a pineapple, you are taking in the powerful enzyme known as bromelain. Most enzymes are broken down in your digestive tract. However, bromelain has system-wide effects since it is absorbed into your body whole. Though it is not well-understood how it works, studies have shown that bromelain is a great swelling remedy by reducing pain and inflammation once absorbed into the blood stream.
If you juice the hard stem of a pineapple and drink it on an empty stomach, you will get the most bromelain. And, if you really want to pack a powerful anti-inflammatory pain relief punch, combine the pineapple juice with ginger, turmeric, and aloe. Additionally, you can purchase bromelain supplements at your local health store.
If you are an athlete, you have likely heard of the acronym RICE. This mnemonic device stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. This first-aid treatment aims to manage internal bleeding, swelling, and discomfort from soft tissue injuries.
Elevation of the swollen body part or area will first and foremost take the pressure off of your veins. This encourages blood to flow from your affected area and relieves the pressure by giving your veins a break. As the blood flows away from the inflamed area, the swelling will go down.
How to reduce swelling with elevation: elevation is commonly recommended for people with leg injuries, but it can also be helpful for injuries to other extremities. You should rest the affected body part on a pillow or cushion at a level that is higher than your heart. For instance, if you have a swollen ankle, consider lying down on a couch with your ankle resting on a pillow on top of an armrest. Do this for as long as is comfortable.
Turmeric is a simple root that looks a lot like ginger. The main difference is that turmeric is bright orange on the inside. At health food stores, you may be able to find turmeric as a whole fresh fruit, but it is much more common to find it as a dried, ground spice in North America. For over 4,000 years, turmeric has been used to treat a broad range of different ailments, such as inflammation, infections, digestive issues, and cancers.
Researchers found in a recent study that turmeric eased the pain in patients with arthritis just as much as ibuprofen. If you love Indian food, you can sneak more turmeric into your recipes to help ease pain from swelling. Turmeric is also enjoyed as a tea. Supplement stores also typically carry the powerful compound in turmeric, called curcumin, in capsule form.
The edematous swelling resulting from the inflammatory process is reduced through compression. Some swelling is inevitable, but too much will result in excessive pain, eventual slowing of blood flow due to vessel restriction, and significant loss of function.
To decrease swelling, use an elastic bandage, and not a firm plastic bandage. If you use a tight, non-elastic bandage, you may experience inadequate blood flow and develop a condition known as ischemia. The fit should allow expansion for when the muscles contract and fill with blood, but it should still be snug so as not to move freely.
Though it may look like the claw of the devil, devil’s claw is much more gentle and helpful. Despite the funny shape of this creepy looking root, researchers have found that it can improve physical functioning and reduce pain in patients with osteoarthritis. The source of devil’s claw’s pain relieving properties are believed to be the iridoid glycosides that it contains. As one of the best herbs to reduce swelling, devil’s claw root is often sold in capsules and ointments, and it can also be taken as a tea.
Water has been shown time and again to help treat the swelling associated with edema. Edema occurs because of sodium retention in the body. You feel bloated after eating a salty meal because water and sodium are naturally attracted to each other. Your kidneys keep close track of the amount of fluids and sodium in your body. Your kidneys send a message to your body to release sodium and water when you add more water to your body through hydration. Consequently, you will flush out the edema-causing salt from your body.
How to treat swelling associated with edema using hydration: drink at least eight glasses of water per day to reduce the swelling.
The transparent layer between the gel-like inside part of an egg and the eggshell is known as the egg membrane. When you hard boil an egg, it is much easier to see this membrane. The egg membrane exists to protect the egg and features several important components, such as glucosamine and collagen. When compared to a placebo, egg membrane has been shown in a recent study to significantly reduce joint pain and stiffness in patients with arthritis.
How to relieve swelling with egg membranes: if you do not feel like boiling dozens of eggs and removing the membranes, you can purchase egg membrane in supplement form. Additionally, you can also use the membrane from a boiled egg in place of a Band-Aid when you have a wound or a cut. This will accelerate the healing and assuage swelling.
When to See a Doctor
First of all, you should seek emergency medical assistance if you are experiencing swelling and any of the following symptoms, which could indicate a serious heart condition or blood clot in your lungs:
- Dizziness or fainting
- Chest pain
- Coughing blood
- Shortness of breath from exertion or simply lying flat in bed
- Difficulty breathing
Immediate care is also important if your swelling is related to a sports injury, car accident, fall, or other physical injuries. If the swelling occurs suddenly and for no apparent reason or is painful and accompanied by cool, pale skin, immediate care is also a must.
If you try the above natural home remedies for swelling, and it still does not dissipate, you will need to schedule a visit with your doctor since you could have some nonemergency problems related to your swelling. To get a diagnosis for the underlying issue, make an appointment as soon as possible with your health care professional. And, in the meantime, engage in the above home remedies to reduce any associated pain or chance for infection.