The MEAT protocol. If you’re an avid skier, snowboarder or outdoor enthusiast who’s ever suffered an injury, you’re most likely familiar with the acronym RICE, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. While this approach certainly has a place in the injury management toolbox, it is no longer the go-to strategy for optimized healing and recovery. It’s officially time to skip the RICE, and move onto the MEAT, with Movement, Exercise, Analgesia, and Treatment.
Movement, not rest, is the best when treating an injury. Gently and gradually restoring your active range of motion can improve blood flow and provide your muscles and joints with fresh oxygen while removing metabolic waste. The mild stress from motion also triggers the release of numerous natural compounds that directly support the healing process.
Exercise: With the appropriate guidance and supervision, exercise has the potential to speed up recovery. Gentle, controlled movements that stretch your muscles can help to prevent the formation of scar tissue (called adhesions). Exercise also has the added benefit of strengthening the nerve signals traveling to the affected muscles, reducing the risk of muscle weakening/atrophy and joint stiffness.
Analgesia: Intense pain can greatly reduce the body’s ability to heal. Therefore, it is crucial that effective pain management be incorporated into any injury recovery program. Pain can also lead to compensated movements (ex. limping, changing body position, posture, etc), disturb sleep, and significantly impact mood, appetite, and overall quality of life. The bottom line is that the body cannot heal and recover when stressed. As a result, it is important to use the appropriate pain relief options when needed. However, the “painkillers” I am referring to go beyond simply taking NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs) such as Advil or Ibuprofen. Naturopathic Medicine has a number of clinically-validated, natural analgesics such as curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory derived from the spice turmeric. We also commonly prescribe proteolytic (“protein-dissolving”) enzymes that break apart scar tissue and help to balance the inflammatory process.
Treatment is truly the key to recovery. Manual therapy, physiotherapy, myofascial release and acupuncture are all tools that support tissue healing and improve recovery. Contrast hydrotherapy is another great option that has stood the test of time, alternating hot and cold exposure to the site of an injury to help enhance blood and lymphatic circulation.
Remember, your joints and ligaments have far less natural blood circulation than the rest of your body. As a result, they can take much longer to heal. If you don’t promptly and appropriately address an injury, the end result can be an acute injury that turns chronic, with years (or decades) of pain, joint instability, or frequent re-injury. Implementing both MEAT and RICE protocols as part of your recovery plan should be the “Gold-Standard” of treatment. But as with any treatment plan, consult a qualified professional, listen to your body, and know your limits.
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Excerpt by. Dr. Rigo Kefferputz, ND