M.E.A.T Is Good For You!

M.E.A.T. on a meat head.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been pretty sensitive to pain. So when I had my very first chiropractic appointment two weeks ago, you can imagine that I was a little bit worked up, sitting on the edge of my seat in the waiting room. Hanging above my head was a framed picture and interview with the Solon Spine and Wellness Center owner, Dr. Noel Abood. In one of his answers, he replied that the human body’s ability to heal on its own is more powerful than we think. This quote stuck with me as I walked over to see his partner, Dr. Tim Keyes, for my session.

ART is a form of chiropractic care. It stands for active release technique. ART focuses on healing scar tissue that is present near muscles, joints, ligaments, and bones through the use of massage-like techniques that well, hurt a bit, but feel oh-so-good in a S&M kind of way. After my initial session, I still experienced pain in the achilles. However, I felt that the techniques used by Dr. Keyes gave my body permission to run through some discomfort.

For the next three days, I had no change in pain but I wasn’t running awkward like the week before. It hurt but not in a way that activated my mind to think the injury was worse than it really was. And so, this active rest approach got me thinking that maybe his partner was on to something. I scoured the interwebs to discover that there is in fact a new method on the rise that is the opposite of the R.I.C.E. method. Instead of resting, icing, compressing, and elevating, the new approach making waves is called M.E.A.T. and stands for movement, exercise, analgesia, and treatment.

Meat, anyone?

As mentioned by Dr. Abood, inflammation is our body’s natural process to allow healing to occur. The R.I.C.E. method traditionally seeks to end that inflammation through the use of rest as well as anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen. The M.E.A.T. method, however, encourages movement and recovery-focused exercise. Granted, this does not mean to go out and just train like nothing ever happened. Instead, rest should be active and the movement therapeutic. It means that one can still run if it is done in a way that promotes healing, such as cutting weekly mileage in half or forgetting about mileage and just running off of feel. Like Dr. Keyes’s treatments, a little pain can be good for you.

In addition to movement and exercise, the M.E.A.T method involves analgesia and treatment. Similar to R.I.C.E., analgesia can be a pain management supplement, such as Tylenol or an enzyme such as bromelain. However, M.E.A.T. heads advise against NSAIDS such as ibuprofen as they are known to inhibit healing and the formation of new tissue.

Bromelain is extracted from the stems of this little guy! 

Lastly, the “T” in M.E.A.T. stands for treatment. Treatment can mean alternating icing and heating a couple of times a day. It can also mean seeing a chiropractor like Dr. Keyes. Other treatments include foam rolling and acupuncture. But whatever you do, the M.E.A.T. heads advise against a cortisone shot because like an NSAID, it inhibits healing.

Quick fix, eh? 

In the past, I would traditionally take a lot of time off when I had a nagging pain that just wouldn’t go away. However, I would find coming back would be just as painful as before. The area of pain would be stiff and my form, awkward. This time around, I have experimented with more active rest, such as short and slow runs on soft surfaces or barefoot. Similarly, James’s hernia surgeon instructed him to use an active rest approach after surgery, though his recommendation was quite intense. He told him he could start running the next day! If any of you could have seen him after the surgery…

I was too afraid to take a picture but it looked something like this. 

Nonetheless, he followed the doc’s alternative instructions to walk up to 3-4 hours a day to promote healing. Granted, these were very slow, broken up walks during the first few days. But by day number three, most of his pain was gone. And we found a new love for therapeutic walking!

Personally, I like to mix some of my R.I.C.E. with my M.E.A.T. Compression sleeves or stockings (the “C” in R.I.C.E.) are such a simple thing to use that go a long way. I should ice more than I do, though. I’m trying to stay away from complete rest, but a day off here or there doesn’t seem to bother me as much as it did before. It’s all about listening to your body and everyone’s is different so the more options available, the better!

What about you? Have you heard of or had experiences with the M.E.A.T. method? How do you train through little mishaps and nagging pains?

I write about mindfulness, mental health, and the professional sport of running with the occasional poking fun at the sport. When I am not running, I'm either helping people as a counselor or trying to make them laugh as an amateur open mic comedian.

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  1. Very interesting. I’ve noticed doctors and athletes moving in this direction. What I really wanted to add was….best…pictures…ever. The little stick figure one made me laugh out loud! I’m always saying “H.C.” and trying not too. I love creative blog pics.

    1. I say much worse things than HC when Tim works on me! Last Friday I would have punched him in the face if I didn’t like him so much! Work on my tibialus was excruciating! But it feels so much better now 🙂

      1. Thanks Kris! Good luck with your training! And Pepper, I don’t even want to imagine work on my tibialus! Hope Boston recovery is going well 🙂

  2. Alex Hutchinson on Sweat Science advocates, at the least, a MICE approach (replacing the rest with mobility). Of course, a health professional would want to get the “T” in there. I’ve heard such opposing advice on Achilles tendons – “don’t do a thing when it’s sore” to “run lots of slow miles”. Honestly, I think both extremes can be right, because it all depends on the root of the issue. That’s what so devilish about diagnosing and treating running injuries, and why it’s so dangerous to seek advice online.

    1. Good point, Greg. I liked your PT post from yesterday as well. Now that I have health insurance, I’m starting to look for a doc who knows a thing or two about running as I find that all too often, many medical professionals just assume rest when aching or fail to look further at the root of the problem.