Emergency Treatment For Calf Cramps

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in Muscle Therapy and Health

To Stretch or Not To Stretch

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT – The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

 

calf crampsA calf cramp is caused by several different conditions, such as dehydration and mineral deficiency.  These each need to be addressed to prevent future calf cramps, but when your calf spasms wake you with a jolt at night or send you crashing to the ground in agony, you need a solution NOW!

And, stretching is definitely NOT the first thing to do.

 

Emergency Treatment for Calf Cramps

A muscle always contracts 100% before releasing.  Once started, a calf cramp will not partially contract and then reverse because you stretch, as it may cause the muscle fibers to tear, which will cause pain to be felt for days afterward.

As a result, it is most beneficial to help your muscle complete the painful contraction before you try to stretch it.  It sounds counter-intuitive, but it cuts the time of the calf cramp down, and enables you to start flushing out the toxins that formed during the sudden spasm.

Your muscle will be all knotted up, screaming in pain, so it’s good to practice this self-treatment when you are not having a calf cramp.

Grab your calf muscles as shown in this picture.  Hold it tightly, and then as hard as you can, push your two hands together.

The intention is to help the muscle complete the contraction as quickly as possible.  During an actual calf cramp it won’t be as “neat” as the picture shows, but anything you can do to shorten the muscle fibers will hasten the completion of the spasm.

Follow These Steps To Release Your Calf Cramps

  • Hold your hands and continue pushing the muscle together until you can begin to breathe normally again.  Continue holding it another 30 seconds, bringing in as much oxygen as possible with slow, deep, breathing.
  • Release your hands and keep breathing deeply.
  • Repeat #1.  This time it won’t hurt, but you are helping any last muscle fibers to complete the contraction before you move to release the spasm.
  • Begin to squeeze your entire calf as if you were squeezing water out of a thick towel.  Move from the top of your calf and go down toward your ankle.  This will feel good, so do it for as long as you can.
  • It is now safe to stretch your calf muscle because the cramp has completed and you have flushed out the toxins.  Stretch slowly, and don’t go past the point of “feels so good”.  You don’t want to overstretch.

This calf cramps emergency treatment has been proven successful by endurance athletes who have written to me saying how they could continue their race (or training) without any further pain.

This is a very important tip to share with all athletes.  Please tell your friends on Facebook and Twitter, it helps athletes prevent injury and pain.

 

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 

About The Author

Julie DonnellyJulie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in Muscle Therapy and Health, Pain Relief, What Causes Carpal Tunnel

The Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Are Caused By Tight Muscles

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT –The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

what causes carpal tunnel syndromeWhat causes carpal tunnel?

In 1997 I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome: wrist pain, tingling and numb fingers. The pain and burning was horrible, it prevented me from even picking up a pencil or holding a glass. As a massage therapist it was devastating, my hands are my livelihood! I tried everything and finally had to close down my therapy practice because the pain was so severe. I knew I wasn’t going to go for surgery, but carpal tunnel syndrome was a hurdle that was pushing me out of work and I didn’t know where to turn.

Finally, I started to think of the logic of the body.  While everyone was looking at my wrist and forearm, the median nerve that causes the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome doesn’t start in my arm, but where does it start?  Research showed that the nerve actually starts in your NECK!  Who would have thought this would be what causes carpal tunnel!

I found the solution to my problem, and I’ve been bringing it to people worldwide ever since.

How Muscles in Your Neck Can Be What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms

muscles cause carpal tunnel syndromeA bundle of nerves called the Brachial Plexus  (see three lines in neck of drawing) comes out of your cervical vertebrae and at the top of your shoulder the fibers divide into three nerves:

  1.  The Median Nerve – which goes to your thumb and first two fingers
  2. The Ulnar Nerve – which goes to your ring and pinky fingers
  3.  The Radial Nerve – which goes to your wrist

Your Scalenes muscle is in front of, and in back of the brachial plexus.

When the scalenes are in spasm, they put pressure on the bundle of nerves and it can cause tingling and numbness to be felt all the way to your fingers. The purple shading shows the referred pain pattern for the scalenes spasms.  This can be what causes carpal tunnel and in my case this was the primary cause of the carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms I had in my thumb and first two fingers.

By the way, your scalenes also cause that burning feeling you get between your shoulder blades.  You are rubbing your back, but the cause of the pain is actually in your neck!

How Muscles in Your Chest and Upper Arm Can Cause the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

coracoid processThe bundle of nerves goes along the front of your body and at the top of your shoulder it breaks into the three nerves (listed above) and they go under a bone called the coracoid process  (a part of your scapula/shoulder blade).

There are three muscles that attach to your coracoid process, (the biceps , pectoralis minor  , and the coracobrachialis ). When any of them are in spasm, they will pull the bone down onto the three nerves causing tingling and numbness to radiate down your arm and into your wrist &/or hand. This is one of the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, yet most medical practitioners don’t consider these muscles when searching for the cause of numbness in your fingers.

 

Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

A Julstro Self-Treatment That Releases Tension in Your Shoulder and Off the Nerves to Your Hand

treatment for carpal tunnel syndromeYou can self-treat your upper arm muscles that are putting pressure on the coracoid AND also on your shoulder joint.

Simply make a fist and press into your biceps, using your opposite hand to help push your elbow so you can go deeper into your biceps.

Hold the pressure for 15-30 seconds and then continue the pressure while you S-L-O-W-L-Y open your arm.  Release the pressure, bend your arm, and repeat 2-3 times

End of Part 1 –

Next month I will show the muscles of your lower arm and hand and why they can be what causes carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. Plus, you’ll get a self-treatment that is great for taking the pressure off your carpal tunnel.

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

 

About The Author

Julie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Chronic Thigh Muscle Pain Relief

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in Muscle Therapy and Health, Thigh Muscle Pain

A Tale Of Two Olympic Rowers

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT –The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

This blog post came about because I’ve been working with two incredible athletes who were in Sarasota to train, and then compete, to represent the USA in rowing at the lightweight division. Their quads were like rocks that were on fire. They really needed chronic thigh muscle pain relief.  It really made a difference when I treated their quads, and it showed during their qualifying competition. I’m happy to say, they WON!  They are going to Rio.

However, you don’t need to be an Olympic class athlete or a rower to suffer from chronic thigh pain. This treatment will work for anyone with thigh pain.

Chronic Thigh Muscle Pain Hampers Rowers

Thigh muscle pain can hamper a rower’s ability to powerfully force his/her body back as a key part of the rowing pattern.

Movements are done simultaneously: as the thigh muscles are pushing the seat back, the rower’s arms are pulling back on the oars.

It is the smooth interaction of the two movements that enable the rower to glide smoothly toward the finish line.

Chronic thigh muscle pain is caused by repetitive strain injury to the quadriceps muscle fibers.  As the fibers are forcefully contracting while the rower is straightening out his/her legs, knots are formed in the muscle fibers.

It is vital to force the knots out of the thigh muscles in order to release the tension that is being placed on the pelvis and knees, and to stop the pain.

To complicate matters, because of the muscle attachments to the bones and joints, the thigh muscle will also cause pain to be felt in the hip, low back, and knees.

Chronic Thigh Muscle Pain – Treatment That Works

This is an easy treatment to do, and one that uses a strange “tool” – a 12″ length of PVC pipe.

Start by sitting and holding the PVC pipe easily in your hands. Don’t grip it too tightly or you’ll end up hurting your forearm muscles.

chronic thigh muscle pain Begin at the top of your thigh muscle and press, don’t roll, all the way down to your knee.

The most important thigh muscle is called the Rectus Femoris .  (Go to #13 on graphic shown in this link)

This chronic thigh muscle pain is not only has pain caused by its own repetitive strain, but also because muscles in your low back can be rotating your pelvis and causes a domino-effect that shortens the muscle.

After you do 2-3 passes along the length of the muscle, stay on top of one of the spasms (you’ll feel the bumps as you go down your leg), and just press while slightly rotating the PVC pipe to force the knots out of the muscle fibers.

This treatment, and MANY others, is demonstrated in my book Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living .  Or you can get the eBook version and an excellent, unique, stretching program that incorporates self-treatment with Yoga stretches by purchasing Focused Flexibility Training .

Thigh muscle pain, or any other muscle-joint pains, won’t go away on their own!  If you have pain, you need to be proactive and force the knots out of the muscles, and then safely stretch the fibers back to their proper length. It’s easy-to-do, and you’ll be amazed at how good you’ll feel after getting chronic thigh muscle pain relief or other muscle pain relief.

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

 

julie donnelly

About The Author

Julie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

The Benefits of Resveratrol

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in current health articles, Drugs and Health, Exercise, Food and Health, Muscle Therapy and Health

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

exerciseSome athletes, particularly Olympic athletes, are starting to use resveratrol to improve their workouts and their performance in events. Is their belief in the benefits of resveratrol justified, or is resveratrol just another of those “mythical” sports nutrition supplements? There have only been a few small studies on the subject, and those studies have been conflicting.

The study I am featuring this week (Polley et al, Appl. Physiol. Nutr. Metab. 41: 26-32, 2016) asked a more fundamental question. It asked whether resveratrol enhanced the effect of exercise on muscle mitochondrial capacity. For those of you who aren’t scientists that statement may require some interpretation.

What Are Mitochondria and Why Are They Important?

You can think of mitochondria as the power packs of the cell. They are tiny organelles that are found in most cells in our body. The foods that we eat contain a lot of energy (calories), but that energy is not in a form that our cells can use. Our cells metabolize those foods into small molecules that donate electrons to our mitochondria, and the mitochondria use those electrons to create energy in a form that our cells can utilize.

As you might imagine, mitochondria are particularly important for cells with high energy requirements, like our muscle cells. Those muscle cells responsible for endurance and high intensity (think gymnastics or weight lifting) exercise have the highest density of mitochondria and are the most dependent on those mitochondria for optimal performance.

Why Resveratrol Might Increase Muscle Mitochondrial Capacity?

mitochondriaMitochondria have a finite lifetime in our cells. As our cells age their mitochondria become less efficient and start doing bad things like releasing damaging free radicals into the cell. Exercise stress causes the mitochondria in our muscles to age more rapidly than the mitochondria in other cells. Fortunately, regular exercise also stimulates a pathway that causes production of new mitochondria and enhances their efficiency. Thus, the net effect of any exercise program is to increase both the number and efficiency of mitochondria, something referred to as mitochondrial capacity.

It turns out that resveratrol and a small group of related polyphenols also stimulate the same pathway. Animal and cell culture studies show that resveratrol can increase muscle mitochondrial capacity. However, since resveratrol and exercise increase mitochondrial capacity by the same mechanism, the question is whether resveratrol has any added benefit over exercise alone. That is the question this study was designed to answer.

The Benefits of Resveratrol on Muscle Mitochondrial Capacity?

Previous studies had suggested that one of the benefits of resveratrol might be increasing muscle mitochondrial capacity for people who have engaged in relatively little physical activity in the past. For examples, studies have shown that resveratrol activates the pathway leading to increased mitochondrial capacity in obese and diabetic populations, both groups that may not have been involved in regular exercise. In contrast, other studies found no enhancement of those same pathways compared to exercise alone in more highly trained populations involved in high intensity training.

benefits of resveratrolBased on those results, the present study (Polley et al, Appl. Physiol. Nutr. Metab. 41: 26-32, 2016) was specifically designed to assess the effect of resveratrol supplementation along with low-intensity exercise in an untrained muscle group. The authors recruited healthy young adults with approximately equal numbers of men and women. To assure that the muscle group was relatively untrained, they asked the subjects to perform wrist flexor exercises in their non-dominant arm. They excluded from the study anyone whose exercise regimen involved regular use of the non-dominant forearm such as rowing, rock climbing or CrossFit.

This was a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Half of the group received 500 mg of resveratrol and the other half received the placebo. The placebo group served as a control for the effect of exercise alone. The dominant arm was not exercised, so it served as a control for the effect of resveratrol alone. The participants took resveratrol or placebo upon wakening each morning. The wrist flexor exercises were performed 3 times per week for 4 weeks. Mitochondrial capacity measurements were made using near infrared spectroscopy on a weekly basis.

The results were pretty straight-forward.

  • Low-intensity training alone (placebo group) for 4 weeks resulted in a 10% increase in mitochondrial capacity.
  • Low-intensity training plus resveratrol for 4 weeks resulted in a 40% increase in mitochondrial capacity. This represented a highly significant difference between the resveratrol and placebo groups.
  • Neither the resveratrol group or the placebo group exhibited changes in the untrained arm, which suggests that resveratrol without exercise has little or no effect on mitochondrial capacity in young, healthy subjects.

The authors concluded: “Taken together, these findings indicate that [the] combination of exercise and resveratrol is needed for eliciting maximal muscle mitochondrial adaptations to low-intensity training programs.”

What Are the Strengths and Weaknesses of This Study?

Strengths:Because previous studies had suggested that the effects of resveratrol might be masked in highly trained individuals or by high intensity exercise, this study was specifically designed to look at the effects of resveratrol on mitochondrial capacity when administered along with low-intensity exercise in untrained muscles. In that sense this study breaks new ground and suggests that, under the right conditions, resveratrol can enhance exercise training.

Weaknesses:The weaknesses of this study were many:

  • It was a very small study. That is not unusual in this area of research, but clearly much more research is needed.
  • It used a higher dose of resveratrol than previous studies. However, plasma levels of resveratrol were not determined and the effect of lower doses was also not determined, so we have no idea how much resveratrol is actually needed to elicit this response.
  • While increased mitochondrial capacity is a probable predictor of improved exercise efficiency, no performance outcomes were actually measured. Most people probably don’t care how well their mitochondria work. They care about how well their muscles perform.

What Does This Mean For You?

We are in the very early stages of research into the benefits of resveratrol on exercise. Many more studies are needed before we will be in a position to fully understand the effects of resveratrol on exercise efficiency and performance outcomes. This and previous studies suggest that resveratrol is likely to be most effective at enhancing exercise efficiency with low intensity exercise in relatively untrained muscles.

If true, that would mean resveratrol might be helpful for the millions of Americans who are “weekend warriors” or exercise sporadically. It may even be beneficial for those of us who exercise regularly at a low to moderate intensity level.

However, because resveratrol and exercise improve mitochondrial capacity by the same mechanism, previous studies suggest that resveratrol might be a less effective addition for highly trained athletes engaged in high-intensity exercise.If true, this would put resveratrol in the same category as several other popular exercise supplements such as arginine and citrulline that also appear to be more effective for untrained individuals than they are for highly trained athletes.

However, I am aware of many Olympic athletes who use and swear by a resveratrol polyphenol blend. It could be placebo, but it could also suggest that resveratrol does enhance performance for highly trained athletes engaged in high-intensity exercise. As I said at the beginning of this section, there is much more research to do. That’s what makes science so much fun. There are always new things to learn.

 

The Bottom Line 

We are in the very early stages of research into the benefits of resveratrol on exercise. Many studies will be needed before we will be in a position to fully understand the effects of resveratrol on exercise efficiency and performance outcomes. However, a recent study is of interest because it introduces a new perspective to our understanding of the possible effects of resveratrol on exercise efficiency.

  • Thisstudy reports that resveratrol significantly enhances the increase in mitochondrial capacity caused by low-intensity exercise in untrained muscles
  • If true, that would mean resveratrol might increase exercise efficiency for the millions of Americans who are “weekend warriors” or exercise sporadically. It may even be beneficial for those of us who exercise regularly at a low to moderate intensity level.
  • However, because resveratrol and exercise improve mitochondrial capacity by the same mechanism, previous studies suggest that resveratrol might be a less effective addition for highly trained athletes engaged in high-intensity exercise.
  • If true, this would put resveratrol in the same category as several other popular exercise supplements such as arginine and citrulline that also appear to be more effective for untrained individuals than they are for highly trained athletes.
  • However, I am aware of many Olympic athletes who use and swear by a resveratrol polyphenol blend. It could be placebo, but it could also suggest that resveratrol does enhance performance for highly trained athletes engaged in high-intensity exercise.

As I said before, there is much more research to do. That’s what makes science so much fun. There are always new things to learn.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Chronic Hip Pain Relief

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in Exercise, Hip Pain Treatment, Muscle Therapy and Health

You Can Enjoy Pain Free Living From Home

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT –The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

 

You may not be an Irish dancer like the woman who sent this question, but if you are a runner, golfer, or you play tennis – or if you are just having chronic hip pain – you’ll find answers to the cause of your pain, and what you can do to resolve it!

The Cause of Bridget’s Chronic Hip Pain

I received this question recently.

I am a competitive Irish dancer. I love what I do, it is my passion.  I am 40 years old and I have been Irish dancing since I was 35.

The pillar of Irish dancing is core muscles and hamstrings. The better I have gotten with my dancing, the worst my everyday pain in my high hamstrings right at the hip joint (Bicep Femoris). I have been in pain for 4 years now. It only gets worse.can you please advise.

Bridget

Obviously “Bridget” is overusing all of her muscles. She doesn’t have a “chronic hip pain condition” she has overuse syndrome, and it CAN be reversed easily. It’s just a matter of discovering what is causing the pain, finding the source of the pain, and then eliminating it with simple self-treatments.

My Answer For Bridget’s Chronic Hip Pain

Hi,

I LOVE Irish dancing, and I’ve always appreciated how grueling it is for the dancers from their hips to their feet. I’m happy to tell you that it is easy to treat each of the muscles, but it’s more than just your hip joint and hamstrings.  This chronic hip pain pattern actually starts from your quadriceps, specifically your rectus femoris.

chronic hip pain from dancingIt will help you follow this discussion if you first read my article on hip joint pain relief .  You’ll see that your quadriceps cause your leg to go straight after you bend your knee, so it is being repetitively strained from all of the dancing.

The rectus femoris is the only one of the four quadriceps that originates on the tip of your pelvis, so when it is being repetitively strained – and therefore shortening – it is pulling DOWN on your pelvis and UP on your knee.

As your pelvis rotates down from this strain, it causes the muscles of your hamstrings to become OVERSTRETCHED. The worst thing to do is to stretch your hamstrings without first treating the muscles that have caused your pelvis to rotate.

The overstretching occurs because the origin of your hamstrings are on the base of your pelvis.   So as your posterior pelvis is pulling your hamstrings, which have their own spasms occurring and are tying the fibers into knots, they are now being overstretched as the pelvis moves.

The muscles of your hip become involved because they are twisted as your pelvis pulls them down in the front, and contracts them as your pelvis moves up in the back. This puts a great strain on the top of your thigh bone, called the greater trochanter.

You need to do your self-treatments in a specific way to sequentially release your muscles in a manner that will reverse the domino-effect your rectus femoris is putting on your pelvis. As you release each muscle in what is called the Julstro Protocol , your pelvis will be able to release.

As a dancer, I suggest you self-treat each of the muscles regularly, even daily.  This will force out the toxins that are created as you dance for hours, and will enable your muscles to heal while you sleep so you’ll be fresh in the morning and not carrying around yesterday’s pain.

You can release all of the muscles that are causing your chronic hip pain, and you’ll find that you’re dancing better, with more flexibility, and you’ll also feel stronger.

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

 

 

About The Author

julie donnellyJulie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

 

 

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Plantar Fasciitis Causes and Treatment

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in current health articles, Foot Pain, Muscle Therapy and Health

You Can Enjoy Pain Free Living From Home

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT –The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

plantar fasciitis causesRecently a woman came in to see me who was suffering from severe plantar fasciitis pain, her arch hurt so much she could barely walk.  She’d been to several specialists and has so far bought three pair of orthotics (at $400 each!).  Plantar fasciitis is getting to be a commonplace condition in my office.  I love working with athletes, but I’m finding this isn’t only a problem for athletes.

Because of driving a car for long distances her right foot was worse than her left, which makes sense since the muscles that enable you to press down on the gas and brake pedals, are the same ones that are the cause of plantar fasciitis.

Plantar Fasciitis Causes: Are Muscles The Culprit?

Muscles are seldom considered when searching for the answer to plantar fasciitis pain. Instead the foot is considered to be the problem, instead of the symptom, and orthotics are commonly recommended.  In many cases, when muscles are the cause of the plantar fasciitis symptoms, the orthotics will cause more pain.

The analogy I always use is, if you pull your hair at the end, your scalp will hurt. But you don’t need to massage your scalp, you don’t need to take pain-killers for the headache, and you don’t need brain surgery — you just need to let go of your hair!  It’s the same with joint pain. Muscles pull on tendons, and the tendons insert into a joint. When the muscle is tight you will feel the pain at the joint. But you don’t need to rub the joint, or take pain-killers, or have surgery—you need to release the spasms in the muscle fibers.

In the case of plantar fasciitis, the muscles are in your lower leg, and the insertion of the tendon is in your arch – so when the muscles are tight your arch will hurt.

The two muscles are the tibialis anterior and the peroneal.  The tibialis anterior runs along the entire length of the shin bone and then the tendon inserts onto the first metatarsal (the long bone that is on the inside of your arch and goes up to your big toe), while the peroneal runs along the entire outside of your lower leg, goes behind your ankle, and the tendon inserts on the fifth metatarsal (the bone on the outside of your foot) and also on the first metatarsal at the same point as the insertion of your tibialis anterior.  This is important to visualize so you can see how the tendons pulling on the bones will put pressure on your arch and cause the arch muscles to be strained — causing plantar fasciitis pain in the bottom of your foot.

Self-Treatment For Plantar Fasciitis Pain

plantar fasciitis treatmentThere are several muscles that all impact your arch and cause the pain of plantar fasciitis.  This picture is doing the treatment for the muscle that runs down the outside of your lower leg, called peroneal.  The peroneal is neglected by most therapists when searching for an answer to foot pain, yet it is often one of the key muscles that needs to be treated to get relief.

Sit as shown in the picture and use either the Julstro Perfect Ball, or a new tennis ball, and press the outside of your leg directly onto the ball.  You’ll find a very tender point at the same level as shown in this picture.

When you find it, hold the pressure steady, and then slightly move your leg so the ball rolls up and down the outside of your leg.  Use your hand as shown to press down on your leg to increase the pressure.

You’ll be thrilled when you see how quickly you’ll feel relief!  You’ll be able to go back out and enjoy your life pain-free!

Plantar fasciitis causes are often centered around muscles in the legs, therefore plantar fasciitis pain relief is also.

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

julie donnelly

 About The Author

Julie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Check It Out!

If you would like easy to follow instructions on how to relieve joint pain and muscle tightness from head to toe click here (http://www.triggerpointyoga.com/product/triggerpoint-yoga-full-body-kit/?ap_id=SteveChaneyTips) to check out Julie Donnelly’s Trigger Point Yoga instruction kit today. Whenever, I have pain and stiffness I use her techniques. They work!

Shoulder Muscle Pain Relief

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in Muscle Therapy and Health, Shoulder Pain

You Can Enjoy Pain Free Living From Home

 Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT –The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

Yesterday I was at my sailing club and a man was sitting watching the water, rubbing his shoulder and clearly in pain.  I asked him what was wrong and he said he had a sore shoulder for the past three months and he desperately wanted to find some pain relief. He loves to sail and this shoulder muscle pain was preventing him from going out on the water.  He said he had already been to a massage therapist, a physical therapist, and a chiropractor. He finally went to an orthopedic surgeon and was told that surgery was the only way to relieve the pain of his sore shoulder, but he had decided that he didn’t want to take that path…yet.

Shoulder Muscle Pain Cause

muscle shoulder painI use an analogy that makes it so clear why spasms in will cause joint pain.  If you pull your hair your scalp will hurt, but you don’t need to massage your scalp, or take aspirin for your headache, and you definitely don’t need brain surgery.  You simply need to let go of your hair!

Your shoulder has more muscle attachments than any joint in your body.

Each muscle pulls your shoulder in a different direction, but as the muscle gets tight it puts pressure on the bone. Your shoulder muscle pain is the end result – just like pulling your hair hurts your head.

To get relief,  all you need to do is release the tension in the muscles. ‘

Stretching WON’T Help Relieve Sore Shoulder Pain!

sore shoulder painIt is important to untie the knots (spasms) in the muscles before stretching. Think of what happens if you take a 12″ length of rope, tie enough knots in it so it is 11″ long, and then try to stretch it back to 12″ without first untying the knots.  This is what will happen to your muscle fibers if you stretch without first releasing the spasms.

My years of working with athletes who not only have sore shoulder pain, but also have pain in every joint caused by their repetitive strain. Working with athletes showed me that it was vital to teach them how to do self-treatments they could use during a race or competition.

This led to several books and DVD programs, including my Focused Flexibility TrainingOn one DVD, I demonstrate how to self-treat every muscle from your head to foot, and then on two DVDs (1 Upper Body and 1 Lower Body) Ana Johnson, a fantastic yoga instructor, leads you through self-treating the muscles you will be stretching, and then a 30-minute yoga program.  It works to quickly eliminate sore shoulder pain, as well as pain and stiffness throughout your body.

There are several treatments for sore shoulder pain, each addressing a different group of muscles that pull your shoulder and arm in the wide range of motions you make every day without even thinking about it.

Self-Treatment For Shoulder Muscle Pain

The photo to the left show you how to treat your Infraspinatus muscle. This muscle brings your shoulder back, like you’re taking a tennis serve. When your Infraspinatus muscle is in spasm, it will cause shoulder muscle pain as you try to bring your arms forward.

shoulder pain causePlace the Perfect Ball as shown in the picture, and lean your weight into the ball.  Look for the “hot spot,” which will be tender.  As you lean into the ball, then take the pressure off, and then lean again, you’ll find the muscle becoming less and less painful.

Move the ball to different areas of your shoulder, finding the various painful points.  Each one is a spasm that is causing your sore shoulder pain. You can enhance this treatment by slowly drawing your arm across your body while you are still pressing into the ball. Since the spasms have been released, this movement will safely stretch the muscle fibers. As you release each spasm, and then stretch, you’ll find pain relief, and you’ll know how to stop pain quickly and easily should it return.

As for the man I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, I’m happy to say that today he told me he slept through the night for the first time in weeks, and he’s getting better every time he does the self-treatments I taught him.  That is so fulfilling — I LOVE my work!

With some knowledge of how to find spasms, how to self-treat them, and how to stretch properly, you can Stop Pain FAST!

julie donnellyWishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

 

 

About The Author

Julie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

SI Joint Pain Relief

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in Hip Pain Treatment, Muscle Therapy and Health

You Can Enjoy Pain Free Living From Home

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT –The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

 

I received a call from a distressed client about her son’s unbearable SI joint pain that refuses to hold a chiropractic adjustment.  Her son has dealt with the pain for several years.  His pain is beginning to turn his life into a bad dream since it’s prohibiting him from playing the sports he enjoys and he doesn’t see an end in sight.  Maybe you can relate.

 

What Causes SI Joint Pain?

si joint pain reliefThe sacroiliac joint is the point where the sacrum (white area) and the ilium (red area) join together (circled in yellow).

When the muscles that surround the joint are either too tight or too loose, or if you have an accident, the joint can be pulled out of alignment.

This misalignment will cause pain in the immediate area, and also cause symptoms that are similar to low back pain and/or sciatica.

Imagine the overlapping area (circled in yellow) moving in a manner that separates the two bones…ouch!  You can imagine how this not only strains the sacroiliac joint, but also causes a misalignment at the hip and pubic joint.

This can cause low back pain, SI joint pain, hip pain or groin pain.  The pain can also refer down the leg and even into the foot.

Why Chiropractic Adjustments May Not Hold

We love chiropractors and the care they provide.  Spinal health is essential for longevity and vitality.

Some adjustments may not hold, whether it’s an adjustment for SI joint pain, sciatica, back pain, shoulder pain, or anything else, because the muscles that pull the bones out of alignment in the first place aren’t being released prior to the adjustment.  (When releasing a muscle you are releasing tiny muscle fiber knots that cause the muscle to shorten and pull on the bone.)

Think of this analogy, imagine you had a length of rope with a stick tied in the middle.  As you pull one side of the rope to tug the stick in that direction in order to bring the stick back to the middle you have to first release the tug (tension) on the rope.

This is similar to what happens when adjustments are unable to hold.  The tight muscle is pulling on the joint, the chiropractor pushes (adjusts) the joint back into place and then the tight muscle pulls it right back out again.  This can go on and on until the muscle knots are released.

Get SI Joint Pain Relief with this Muscle Release Technique

si joint painSTEP 1:  Place a Trigger Point Treatment Ball (or a firm tennis ball) directly on your SI joint.

Ease your body down onto the ball gently.  It’s important to stay in the “hurts so good” range; it may feel uncomfortable but not a sharp pain.  If you feel a sharp pain, move the ball to a spot nearby, but not directly on the joint.

Move the ball around the entire area to release the tension (muscle knots) in all of the muscles.  Stay on any tender points for about 30 seconds.

STEP 2:  Once you feel you have released the tender areas (trigger points), place the ball directly on your SI joint.  Bring your same-side leg up, resting your lower leg on the thigh of your opposite leg.  (The same movement as crossing your leg in a chair.)  The intention here is to add an additional stretch to the muscles surrounding your SI joint.

This muscle release technique may take a few times before the muscles completely relax and the SI joint is no longer being pulled out of alignment.

Now the next time you see your chiropractor you’ll get an adjustment that lasts!  You may even find that this technique allows the joint to move back into alignment on its own.

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

 

julie donnelly

 

 

 

About The Author

Julie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Repetitive Strain Injury From Sleeping

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in Exercise, Healthy Lifestyle, Healthy Living, Muscle Therapy and Health, Stress Management

Get Off To A Great Start Every Morning

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT – The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

How Can Sleep Cause Repetitive Strain Injury?

repetitive strain injury causesFor most of us during sleep we stay in one position for hours at a time.  So if you wake up with back pain after sleeping, you are experiencing the side effects of muscles held in one position for hours.  This is an example of repetitive strain injury or repetitive stress injury.

Because the muscles have to contract to pull your body into your favorite sleeping position and then the muscles stay in a shortened position for hours this can cause pain and tension in your back.

When you wake up with back pain after sleeping you may think you need a new mattress.  You might, but it’s definitely worthwhile to address the tight muscles first as they may be the whole problem.

stretchingHave you ever seen a dog do their “downward dog” stretch after a nap?  Before the dog bounces back into the world it takes time to awaken its body.  This is your pain relief “role-model” for stretching your back after sleeping.  You’ll be amazed at how simply moving in bed before starting your day eliminates pain and tension.

Let’s get started!  While still in bed begin moving around; raise your arms over head and stretch your legs out and flex your feet.  Maybe roll to each side stretching the sides of your body.  Try these 3 stretches we recommend

Repetitive Strain Injury Treatment:  3 Stretches After Sleeping

The following stretches will help relieve symptoms of repetitive strain injury due to sleeping in one position for long periods.

When you are ready bring yourself to a seated position (still in bed!).

 

stretches for back painOne at a time, bring your arm across the front of your body.  Pull your shoulder and shoulder blade toward the front, but without moving the rest of your trunk.  This is a great stretch for your triceps, shoulders and upper back.

repetitive strain injury treatmentNext stretch!  Bring your feet together, as pictured here.Start with a straight spine then slowly roll your chin into your chest, rounding your back.  Mmmmm…this feels good!

repetitive stress injury treatmentAnd finally, try this juicy spinal twist.Sit with left leg straight out or you can bend it as pictured.  Cross the right foot over the left leg, press your right hand behind you, place your left elbow on your right knee now twist.  Stretch as far as you are comfortable.  Try holding it 15-20 seconds.

This stretch will even help to loosen your hips if you sit as pictured!

As with all stretches, start out easy – stretching should feel GOOD.  You’ll feel the tension ease as the blood starts flowing.The tight muscles that cause back pain after sleeping can hamper your entire day, but doing these simple stretches will make a world of difference!

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

julie donnellyAbout The AuthorJulie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Leucine And Muscle Gain

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in current health articles, Exercise, Fitness and Health, Food and Health, Healthy Living, Muscle Therapy and Health, Supplements and Health

Should Your Post-Workout Protein Shake Contain Added Leucine?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

If you are an athlete – or just someone who is exercising to create a lean and healthy body, you are probably interested in increasing your lean muscle mass following each workout. You may leucinealready use leucine.  Of course, if you read any of the “muscle magazines”, you’ve seen the ads. “Explode Your Muscles.” “Double Your Gains.” They all claim to have the perfect post-workout protein shake, backed by science. They all sound so tempting, but you know that some of them have to be scams.

I told you about some of the sports supplements to avoid in previous “Health Tips From the Professor”. In this issue, I’m going to ask “What does the perfect post-workout protein shake look like?

For years athletes have been using protein beverages containing branched chain amino acids after their workouts to maximize muscle gain and recovery. There was some science behind that practice, but the major questions were unanswered. Nobody really knew:

  • How much protein is optimal?
  • What kind of protein is optimal?
  • What amount of branched chain amino acids is optimal?
  • Are some branched chain amino acids more important than others?
  • Does the optimal amount of branched chain amino acids depend on the amount of protein?

As a consequence, after workout protein supplements were all over the map in terms of protein source, protein amount, branched amino acid amount and type of branched chain amino acids. Fortunately, recent research has clarified many of these questions.

How Much Protein Do You Need and What Kind?

  • Recent research has shown that the optimal protein intake for maximizing muscle gain post workout is 15-20 gm for young adults (Katsanos et al, Am J Clin Nutr 82: 1065-1073, 2005; Moore et al, Am J Clin Nutr, 89: 161-168, 2009) and 20-25 gm for older adults (Symons et al, Am J Clin Nutr 86: 451-456, 2007).
  • More protein isn’t necessarily better. The effect of protein intake on post workout muscle gain maxes out at around 25 gm for young adults and 30 gm for older adults (Symons et al, J Am Diet Assoc 109: 1582-1586, 2009).
  • Whey protein is the best choice for enhancing muscle gain immediately after a workout. Other protein sources (soy, pea, casein, chicken) are better choices for sustaining muscle gain over the next few hours.

Leucine: The Only Branched Chain Amino Acid To Stimulate Muscle Protein

  • branched chain amino acidIt turns out that leucine is the only branched chain amino acid that actually stimulates muscle protein synthesis (Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 291: E381-E387, 2006). And protein is what gives muscles their strength and their bulk.
  • Recent research has shown that 2-3 gm of leucine (2 gm for young adults; 3 gm for older adults) is sufficient to maximize post workout muscle gain if protein levels are adequate (Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 291: E381-E387, 2006).

Unanswered Questions About Optimizing Muscle Gain Post-Workout

  • Do the other branched chain amino acids play a supporting role, or is leucine alone sufficient to drive post-workout muscle gain?
  • Can leucine still help maximize post-workout muscle gain if protein intake is inadequate? If so, how much leucine is needed?

Does Leucine Enhancement Improve Low Protein Shakes?

A recent study (Churchward-Venne et al, Am J Clin Nutr, 99: 276-286, 2014) seems to answer those two questions. The authors compared the effect of 5 protein-amino acid combinations on best post workout shakemuscle protein synthesis in 40 young men (~21 years old) following unilateral knee-extensor resistance exercise. The protein shakes contained:

  • 25 gm of whey protein, which naturally contains 3 gm of leucine (high protein)
  • 6.25 gm of whey protein, which naturally contains 0.76 gm of leucine (low protein)
  • 6.25 gm of whey protein with 3 gm of leucine (low protein, low leucine)
  • 6.25 gm of whey protein with 5 gm of leucine (low protein, high leucine)
  • 6.25 gm of whey protein with 5 gm of leucine + added isoleucine and valine (the other branched chain amino acids). (low protein, branched chain amino acids).

The results were clear cut:

  • The high protein shake (25 gm of protein) was far superior to the low protein shake (6.25 gm of protein) at enhancing post workout protein synthesis. This is consistent with numerous other published clinical reports.
  • Adding 3 gm of leucine to the low protein shake had no effect on post-workout protein synthesis, but 5 gm of added leucine made the low protein shake just as effective as the high protein shake at supporting post-workout protein synthesis.

In short, leucine can improve the effectiveness of a low protein shake, but you need more leucine than if you chose the high protein shake to begin with.

  • Adding extra branched chain amino acids actually suppressed the effectiveness of leucine at enhancing post-workout protein synthesis. These data suggest:
    • Leucine probably is the major amino acid responsible for the muscle gain reported in many of the previous studies with branched chain amino acids.
    • If the other branched chain amino acids play a supporting role in the muscle gain, the quantities that occur naturally in the protein are probably enough. Adding more may actually reduce the effectiveness of leucine at stimulating muscle gain.

While this is a single study, it is consistent with numerous other recent clinical studies. It simply helps clarify whether leucine can increase the effectiveness of a low protein supplement. It also clarifies the role of branched chain amino acids.

Also, while this study focused on protein synthesis, numerous other studies have shown that optimizing post-workout protein and leucine intake results in greater muscle gain (for example, Westcott et al., Fitness Management, May 2008)

 

The Bottom Line

Research on post-workout nutrition to optimize muscle gain from the workouts has come a long way in recent years. It is now actually possible to make rational choices about the best protein supplements and foods to support your workouts.

  • If you are a young adult (17-30), you should aim for 15-20 gm of protein and about 2 gm of leucine after your workout.
  • If you are an older adult (50+), you should aim for 20-25 gm of protein and 3 gm of leucine after your workout.
  • If you are in between you are on your own. Studies haven’t yet been done in your age group, but it’s reasonable to assume that you should aim for somewhere between the extremes.
  • If you are getting the recommended amounts of whey protein, the leucine level may also be optimal. If you are using other protein sources you may want to choose ones with added leucine.
  • The research cited above shows that you can make a low protein supplement effective by adding lots of leucine, but that’s going to require artificial flavors and sweeteners to cover up the taste of that much leucine. I would recommend choosing one that provided adequate protein to begin with.
  • While the research in this area is still somewhat fluid, I would avoid protein supplements with added branched chain amino acids other than leucine. If the paper I cited above is correct, you probably get all of the other branched chain amino acids you need from your protein and adding more may actually interfere with the effect of leucine on muscle gain.
  • I’d pretty much forget all the other “magic ingredients” in post-workout supplements. If you’re a novice there is some evidence that arginine and HMB may be of benefit, but if you have been working out for more than 6 months, the evidence is mixed at best. As for the rest, the clinical studies are all over the map. There’s no convincing evidence that they work.
  • Whey protein is the best choice for enhancing muscle gain immediately after your workout. Soy, pea, and casein are better choices for sustaining muscle gain over the next few hours. If you’re looking at meat protein, chicken is a particularly good choice. Four ounces of chicken will provide the protein and leucine you need to sustain muscle gain for several hours.

Even if you are not working out, recent research on dietary protein and leucine has important implications for your health. In a recent “Health Tips From the Professor” High Protein Diets and Weight Loss, I shared research showing that optimizing protein and leucine intake helps to increase muscle retention and maximize fat loss when you are losing weight.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Can Plant-based Diets Be Unhealthy?

Posted September 10, 2019 by Dr. Steve Chaney

Do Plant-Based Diets Reduce Heart Disease Deaths?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

plant-based diets vegetablesPlant-based diets have become the “Golden Boys” of the diet world. They are the diets most often recommended by knowledgeable health and nutrition professionals. I’m not talking about all the “Dr. Strangeloves” who pitch weird diets in books and the internet. I am talking legitimate experts who have spent their life studying the impact of nutrition on our health.

Certainly, there is an overwhelming body of evidence supporting the claim that plant-based diets are healthy. Going on a plant-based diet can help you lower blood pressure, inflammation, cholesterol and triglycerides. People who consume a plant-based diet for a lifetime weigh less and have decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

But, can a plant-based diet be unhealthy? Some people consider a plant-based diet to simply be the absence of meat and other animal foods. Is just replacing animal foods with plant-based foods enough to make a diet healthy?

Maybe not. After all, sugar and white flour are plant-based food ingredients. Fake meats of all kinds abound in our grocery stores. Some are very wholesome, but others are little more than vegetarian junk food. If you replace animal foods with plant-based sweets, desserts, and junk food, is your diet really healthier?

While the answer to that question seems obvious, very few studies have asked that question. Most studies on the benefits of plant-based diets have compared population groups that eat a strictly plant-based diet (Seventh-Day Adventists, vegans, or vegetarians) with the general public. They have not looked at variations in plant food consumption within the general public. Nor have they compared people who consume healthy and unhealthy plant foods.

This study (H Kim et al, Journal of the American Heart Association, 8:e012865, 2019) was designed to fill that void.

 

How Was The Study Done?

plant-based diets studyThis study used data collected from 12,168 middle aged adults in the ARIC (Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities) study between 1987 and 2016.

The participant’s usual intake of foods and beverages was assessed by trained interviewers using a food frequency questionnaire at the time of entry into the study and again 6 years later.

Participants were asked to indicate the frequency with which they consumed 66 foods and beverages of a defined serving size in the previous year. Visual guides were provided to help participants estimate portion sizes.

The participant’s adherence to a plant-based diet was assessed using four different well-established plant-based diet scores. For the sake of simplicity, I will include 3 of them in this review.

  • The PDI (Plant-Based Diet Index) categorizes foods as either plant foods or animal foods. A high PDI score means that the participant’s diet contains more plant foods than animal foods. A low PDI score means the participant’s diet contains more animal foods than plant foods.
  • The hPDI (healthy plant-based diet index) is based on the PDI but emphasizes “healthy” plant foods. A high hPDI score means that the participant’s diet is high in healthy plant foods (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, coffee and tea) and low in animal foods.
  • The uPDI (unhealthy plant-based diet index) is based on the PDI but emphasizes “unhealthy” plant foods. A high uPDI score means that the participant’s diet is high in unhealthy plant foods (refined grains, fruit juices, French fries and chips, sugar sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages, sweets and desserts) and low in animal foods.

For statistical analysis the scores from the various plant-based diet indices were divided into 5 equal groups. In each case, the group with the highest score consumed the most plant foods and least animal foods. The group with the lowest score consumed the least plant foods and the most animal foods.

The health outcomes measured in this study were heart disease events, heart disease deaths, and all-cause deaths. Again, for the sake of simplicity, I will only include 2 of these outcomes (heart disease deaths and all-cause deaths) in this review. The data on deaths were obtained from state death records and the National Death Index. (Yes, your personal information is available on the web even after you die.)

 

Do Plant-Based Diets Reduce Heart Disease Deaths?

plant-based diets reduce heart deathsThe participants in this study were followed for an average of 25 years.

The investigators looked at heart disease deaths over the 25 years and compared people with the highest intake of plant foods to people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods. The results were:

  • People with the highest intake of plant foods and the highest intake of healthy plant foods (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, coffee and tea) had a 19-32% lower risk of dying from heart disease than people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.
  • People with the highest intake of unhealthy plant foods (refined grains, fruit juices, French fries and chips, sugar sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages, sweets and desserts) had the same risk of dying from heart disease as people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.

When the investigators looked at all-cause deaths over the 25 years:

  • People with the highest intake of plant foods and the highest intake of healthy plant foods had an 11-25% lower risk of dying from any cause than people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.
  • People with the highest intake of unhealthy plant foods had the same risk of dying from heart disease as people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.

What Else Did The Study Show?

The investigators made a couple of other interesting observations:

  • The association of the overall diet with heart disease and all-cause deaths was stronger than the association of individual food components. This underscores the importance of looking at the effect of the whole diet on health outcomes rather than the “magic” foods you hear about on Dr. Strangelove’s Health Blog.
  • Diets with the highest amount of healthy plant foods were associated with higher intake of carbohydrates, plant protein, fiber, and micronutrients, including potassium, magnesium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, and lower intake of saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Diets with the highest amount of unhealthy plant foods were associated with higher intake of calories and carbohydrates and lower intake of fiber and micronutrients.

The last two observations may help explain some of the health benefits of plant-based diets.

 

Can Plant-Based Diets Be Unhealthy?

plant-based diets unhealthy cookiesNow, let’s return to the question I asked at the beginning of this article: “Can plant-based diets be unhealthy?” Although some previous studies have suggested that unhealthy plant-based diets might increase the risk of heart disease, this study did not show that.

What this study did show was that an unhealthy plant-based diet was no better for you than a diet containing lots of red meat and other animal foods.

If this were the only conclusion from this study, it might be considered a neutral result. However, this result clearly contrasts with the data from this study and many others showing that both plant-based diets in general and healthy plant-based diets reduce the risk of heart disease deaths and all-cause deaths compared to animal-based diets.

The main message from this study is clear.

  • Replacing red meat and other animal foods with plant foods can be a healthier choice, but only if they are whole, minimally processed plant foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, coffee and tea.
  • If the plant foods are refined grains, fruit juices, French fries and chips, sugar sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages, sweets and desserts, all bets are off. You may be just as unhealthy as if you kept eating a diet high in red meat and other animal foods.

There is one other subtle message from this study. This study did not compare vegans with the general public. Everyone in the study was the general public. Nobody in the study was consuming a 100% plant-based diet.

For example:

  • The group with the highest intake of plant foods consumed 9 servings per day of plant foods and 3.6 servings per day of animal foods.
  • The group with the lowest intake of plant foods consumed 5.4 servings per day of plant foods and 5.6 servings per day of animal foods.

In other words, you don’t need to be a vegan purist to experience health benefits from adding more whole, minimally processed plant foods to your diet.

 

The Bottom Line

A recent study analyzed the effect of consuming plant foods on heart disease deaths and all-cause deaths over a 25-year period.

When the investigators looked at heart disease deaths over the 25 years:

  • People with the highest intake of plant foods and the highest intake of healthy plant foods had a 19-32% lower risk of dying from heart disease than people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.
  • People with the highest intake of unhealthy plant foods had the same risk of dying from heart disease as people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.

When the investigators looked at all-cause deaths over the 25 years:

  • People with the highest intake of plant foods and the highest intake of healthy plant foods had an 11-25% lower risk of dying from any cause than people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.
  • People with the highest intake of unhealthy plant foods had the same risk of dying from heart disease as people with the highest intake of red meat and other animal foods.

The main message from this study is clear.

  • Replacing red meat and other animal foods with plant foods can be a healthier choice, but only if they are whole, minimally processed plant foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, coffee and tea.
  • If the plant foods are refined grains, fruit juices, French fries and chips, sugar sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages, sweets and desserts, all bets are off. You may be just as unhealthy as if you kept eating a diet high in red meat and other animal foods.

A more subtle message from the study is that you don’t need to be a vegan purist to experience health benefits from adding more whole, minimally processed plant foods to your diet. The people in this study were not following some special diet. The only difference was that some of the people in this study ate more plant foods and others more animal foods.

For more details on the study, read the article above.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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