The human body is an incredible marvel and one that is miraculously beyond our comprehension. Never is this clearer than when we get hurt only for our body to heal itself and close up the wound allowing us to return to our regular activities. This is a highly intricate process known as ‘cicatrisation’ in science and one that only seems more amazing once you understand how it all works. Here we will look in a bit more detail at how this process works so that you can truly appreciate how incredible the human body is, and at the same time help to encourage rapid healing for your own wounds.
Cicatrisation or wound healing refers specifically to the reparation of organ tissue such as skin, which is set in motion as soon as the epidermis and dermis are broken (the two outermost layers of the skin). At this point the process goes through four subsequent stages: hemostasis, inflammatory, proliferative and remodelling.
Here hemostasis describes bleeding, which is not considered a stage by all authors, and this leads to platelets collecting at the site which then spread to form a ‘fibrin clot’ preventing further bleeding.
Next, in the inflammatory phase, bacteria and debris are removed. This is accomplished through a process called ‘phagocytosis’ during which the cells will ‘engulf’ solid particles such as bacteria. During the proliferation stage, cells will divide and reproduce over the area while collagen will also be deposited. During this stage contraction also occurs wherein cells will grip themselves to the edges of the wound and then ‘roll’ along the surface of the flesh to close the wound (which is similar to the way that muscles are able to contract).
Some of the new cells created however are used simply as a cover or support structure for the other cells, and during the remodelling phase these are removed by apoptosis (cell death) while collagen is realigned using these markers.
Factors Effecting Wound Healing
Miraculous though the whole process is, it is also fragile and can vary in effectiveness. There are many factors here which can impact the speed and quality of wound healing, for instance circulation can affect the ability of the blood to get to the injury, the viscosity of the blood, and hormones such as oxytocin and growth hormone.
Wound healing takes place immediately following the breach of the dermis and epidermis. However it occurs more quickly and effectively when our body is in an ‘anabolic’ state, which means it is in a state where it is primarily focussed on repairing tissue and growth rather than burning energy. This occurs immediately following exercise, as well as during sleep when our levels of growth hormone increase (and when we are under less stress in the latter case).
The strength of the immune system is also linked to the speed of wound healing, and if you are healthy and well your body will be better able to quickly and effectively close up wounds. Finally, wound healing is also more effective in young age when cell division occurs with fewer errors.
How to Speed Up Wound Healing
The most effective ways to increase wound healing is to make sure you get lots of rest and lots of sleep. You can also help by cleaning the wound to prevent infection and remove dirt and germs, and by making sure that you get a diet high in protein. Taking a hot shower or bath can also help to stimulate the production of growth hormone as well as to soften the skin around the wound to help shed damaged tissue and dirt.