Ever wondered how wounds heal, even without much in-put or medical treatment? The human body is super smart. Here’s how wounds heal themselves.
The body, for the most part, knows how to heal itself. When we get small surface-level wounds, most of the time the body will heal them on its own (though they may leave scars without intervention).
How does this happen?
How does the body know how to patch itself up, and what is the process?
The body is truly incredible at healing even without any help. We are animals, after all, and animals have to heal themselves in the wild.
If you’ve ever been curious about how wounds heal, you’re in the right place. Keep reading to learn just a bit more about your body and the cool things that it can do.
How Wounds Heal: The Steps
Wound healing works in phases. You can sometimes tell this from your wound, but in surface wounds, it can be hard to tell. They heal so quickly that you might miss the process!
When wounds are healing without the intervention of medicine or care, your immune system is going into overdrive. Your body is ready to heal at all times (so long as you aren’t immunocompromised).
Naturally, you can use products to help your body in the healing process (though some products actually have an irritating effect on minor wounds). Many people use things like antibiotic ointment, saline, alcohol, or hypochlorous acid spray to help speed up the process or keep wounded areas clean.
But how exactly is your body reacting at every phase of the healing process when you leave it to its own devices?
There are four primary steps to healing; let’s talk about them!
1. Hemostasis (Or Stopping the Bleeding)
When your body first gets injured, you bleed. Your body is trying to build a wall or dam to help prevent more blood from leaving.
Your blood cells start clotting or forming clumps. These clots are created by platelets, a special kind of blood cell. When the blood cells dry up completely, you get a scab.
These scabs help to protect the wound from more harm and serve as a way to stop blood loss. Your body then makes a fibrin mesh to go over the scab and hold it in place.
When you pick at scabs, you’re essentially setting back the healing process that your body is trying to complete. While scabs can be irritating and ugly, it’s important to leave them alone so your body can finish its work.
When you get hurt, your immune system realizes that it’s time to get to work.
Your body starts to swell and redden around the wounded areas. This might be painful, but this is actually how your body is starting to heal.
When a body part is getting inflamed, blood is rushing to that part of the skin. White blood cells gather to help to clear the wound of any bacteria or dirt. Macrophages then join the party to clean up anything that the other cells missed and to start encouraging new growth.
This new growth is what’s going to help repair the wound while it’s being protected by the scab in phase 1.
This whole process happens in a matter of minutes (sometimes less) but so much is going on beneath the surface!
This brings us right into stage 3.
3. Growth and Proliferation
The body started readying itself to grow and rebuild in phase 2, but in phase 3 it fully commits to this process.
Oxygen-rich blood cells begin flooding to the area to help fix and build new tissue around the wound. Your body has to create new blood vessels and the connective tissue that binds you together.
Later, your wound begins to close. You can see or feel this happening in larger wounds when the skin looks pinched or tight around and underneath the scab. Your body is kind of sewing itself up.
Then, with much of the gap closed, cells begin to cover the wounded area. These cells are often what give the scarred appearance over fresh or old wounds.
Your body can repair itself, but the skin that becomes the replacement might be a little bit different. Most scars will fade to skin color over time.
This is where your skin begins returning to normal. Your skin may pucker noticeably around your scab, and you’ll likely be feeling some gentle burning or itching. It’s important to try not to scratch or pick as the healing process can be set back.
Your skin begins strengthening, and it will return to the majority of its pre-injured strength (though scar skin can be more fragile than healthy skin).
How Long Does This Take?
This might seem like an incredibly in-depth process, and it is! You’re not in charge of any of it though, at least not actively. Your body is doing all of this without any active direction.
The wound healing process varies by the wound. It can last from several days to several years depending on the size, depth, and complexity of the wound in question. If you have an immune disorder or a clotting disorder, this can take longer.
Your Body Is Amazing!
The body is incredible at healing. While there’s nothing wrong with using creams and sprays to help your wound heal more effectively, you should know that you’re more than capable of healing without them so long as you don’t get an infection.
If you’re ever curious about how wounds heal, give them a close look next time. If you get a scrape, let it heal on its own and observe the process. You’ll be amazed at how much your body can do without help!
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