Tendon and Muscle Health
Nutritional Approach to Tendon and Muscle Health
Your muscles and tendons are the biomechanical mechanisms that move your body. Depending on the research, there are a minimum of 646 muscles in the body and each muscle attaches to a bone via tendonus attachments. Without muscles and tendons, there is no movement which means there is no life. We need these structures to live and therefore, we need to start giving them the proper nutrition and attention that they need. Why you ask? Due to injuries and the aging process, tendons and muscles can become chronically strained and sprained resulting in weakened structures that will lead to greater, more painful injuries. While persistent pain should be examined by a competent physician, vitamins are one of the best natural sources to keep your muscles and tendons happy and strong. Let’s look at some of the key players in muscle and tendon health.
Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant that helps prevent free radicals from damaging your muscles and tendons as well as your joints and other connective tissues. Free radicals are radically charged atomic particles or elements that roam free throughout the body looking for other donor molecules to steal so they are stabilized. One of the most common causes of free radicals in the body is stress and poor diet. For this reason, Vitamin A is a good antioxidant to start with. Vitamin A will also boost your immune system. A stronger immune system can prevent microorganisms from damaging your tendons and muscles, but vitamin A has the ability to help the body heal and repair itself. As with any organic structure, the faster a body can recover means the healthier the vessel. I use Vitamin A with many of my tendon injuries such as tennis elbow, knee strains, wrist strains, whiplash from car accidents, low back and neck strains, and basically any injury that affects a joint complex. Vitamin A helps the tendons repair themselves. Sources of vitamin A include green leafy vegetables, garlic, and, fish oils, but I find a quality supplement is the easiest and fastest way to jump start the healing process.
Vitamin E is another all star in tendon and muscle health. Your muscles and tendons are like a Matryoshka doll. Your muscles and tendons are not single units but rather comprised of thousands of fibers. One fiber is wrapped in several other fibers which are wrapped in more fibers wrapped in more fibers. Due to injury or even normal wear and tear, these fibers can become damaged and inflamed. Most of the injuries I see are repetitive overuse syndromes which are the cause of most muscular related pain. Vitamin E has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce tendon and muscle inflammation, which can also lead to a reduction of pain caused by injury. Vitamin E also promotes the healing of damaged tissues. Vitamin E does this by playing a major role in the regulation of cytokines which are small cell-signaling protein molecules that are secreted by numerous cells. Cytokines regulate the repair damaged muscles and tendons. Not only do I prescribe this to my patients with muscular and tendon injuries, but Vitamin E also helps many of my patients recover faster from surgery. Although Vitamin E can be found in olive oil, soy beans, egg yolks, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables, I also find that it is easier for my patients to take this in a supplement form.
Most people know Vitamin C as the immune system booster, but most don’t realize its role in the synthesis of collagen. Collagen is one of the main ingredients in tendons and the supplementation or addition of Vitamin C to an injured body can help repair muscle and tendon tissue. Collagen is a protein that makes up muscle tissues, as well as connective tissues including tendons and ligaments. Collagen is what helps give your tissues tensile strength. Vitamin C is found in several food sources like the citrus fruits, broccoli, berries and strawberries.
Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is one of my main go to vitamins for tendon and tissue injuries. Vitamin B6 has always been known for maintaining tendon health and strength, but it can also help reduce inflammation as well as pain. Normally, I would recommend a B complex to help tendon and muscle injuries because the B complex will help with the digestion and utilization of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. By facilitating the digestion of food, your body has a more efficient process to metabolize what it needs to heal.
Lastly, I always recommend Protein Powder. Because of the current state of the farming and protein industry, particularly farm raised and corn fed beef, chicken and fish, I am a little more confident in a quality protein supplement. Protein powders are metabolized much more easily than animal sources which results in a faster delivery system. Your muscles are made of protein and amino acids, therefore, by supplementing with a protein powder, you are supplying the raw materials you need to help the body repair itself.
A quality, whole foods vitamin should have most of these vitamins and minerals in them. Sadly enough, not enough people take a basic multivitamin for general health. When I have these patients in my office and start them on a quality, affordable vitamin, they can’t believe how much better they feel, as well as how much faster they heal when compared to past injuries. Do yourself a favor and talk to your health professional on what quality vitamins you can take to help your body achieve a healthier and happier life.
Dr Philip O’Brien is a Chiropractic Physician at The OBrien Clininc. His practice is centered around sports injuries and complicated spinal pain cases although he treats a variety of musculoskeletal issues. Dr. O’Brien also works with patients to design medically based exercise programs, nutritional consultation, detoxification, and athletic supplementation.