Saturday, February 1, 2014

5 Dumb Things People Think About Their Bad Knees

1. “I might as well go out and do my five-mile run. My knees can’t get any worse.”

Sure they can. Trust me.

2. “My knees really aren’t that bad -- I just pop some Advil, do my workout, then ice them for half an hour. I don’t feel much pain.”

Right -- and if you took twice as much Advil and iced them twice as long, you could probably succeed in doing twice the damage that you’re probably doing now.

3. “I have chondromalacia. I’m doomed!”

Not at all. Plenty of people have asymptomatic cartilage defects. There’s even good evidence that damaged cartilage can heal, if nurtured properly.

4. “Knees just wear out over time. There’s nothing you can do about it.”

You’re a living organism, not a whitewall tire. Your body has an amazing capacity to heal. Would our knee joints really have evolved to take as much pounding as they do and not have the capacity to often get better after being injured? And, it goes without saying, there’s a lot you can do to strengthen your legs and joints so you don’t get injured in the first place.

5. “Some days my knees feel a little better, some days they feel a little worse. That’s just something I have to accept now.”

If you do accept that -- with the all the “nothing can be done” fatalism that this thought implies -- over time your knees will probably get steadily worse. But if you try to find cause-and-effect patterns and modify your behavior based on them -- e.g., more than 20 minutes on your knees gardening produces symptoms the next day, so don’t do that for now -- you stand an excellent chance of reducing those “bad knee” days and increasing the good ones.


  1. To be fair, some days you just feel so down that numbers 3, 4 and 5 are all you can think of. I think it's particularely true in the begining of the long road to recovery because progresses are so slow, and there are many set backs, and it takes ages to find out what sets you back. Add to this the fact that you walk so excruciatlingly slow that even grannies on zimmer frames could race you. And that the doctors you pay great fares tell you either they can fix you in 6 weeks (and ignore the crunching noise while you do one legged squats, it's just normal!), or that you will never get better. It's enough to feel doomed

    1. I don't even know what a zimmer frame is, but the 'granny racing' comment made me laugh hard. Never thought I'd be one of those slow people, but here I am (half of it is because I fear falling - God forbid). OK, enough about that, the good news is that the hyaluronic acid injections have helped a great deal as well as Pilates and losing weight. Truly love this site, it gives one hope.

    2. deloupy: Yes, that's all very true. I didn't mean to be glib with this post -- I hope no one got that impression. I just wanted to dispel these wrong beliefs that knee pain is a life sentence, and healing is impossible, etc. But I don't mean to treat lightly anyone's suffering, or struggles -- getting better is a long, hard journey for sure.

  2. Have asked Richard to remove this post. I did not mean to imply that orthopaedic surgeons' methods or intentions are bad... Only to say, that I had a bad experience with ONE... but have met others who I think are healers and forward thinking.

    I am going through a very rough patch with my knees and am sorry for dragging my BS into this fine blog. Am on a light walking program for several months at least, which is not easy for the formerly fit and look forward to posting simple and better news in the future.

    Good luck to all healing their knees R-X

  3. Hang in there R-X. I'm going thru the same thing, it is complete sh*t. I just had a week in NZ, did a lot of gentle wandering about, wading in nice cool water fly-fishing, as well as some scrambling over fences, up river banks etc. and some faster walking By the end of the week, my knees were so good I'd almost forgotten about them.

    Then I did some of my strength routine on the last day, which includes a single leg deadlift exercise to strengthen my hips/glutes/upper hammies and bingo, the knee pain was back. Bloody frustrating!

    cheers, TriAgain

  4. Thanks for the encouragement Tri- Have had times too when I felt better and this time when I improve will try to push the rest an extra month or two and come back slower than before. You know the drill, it's hard to go slow when feeling good.

    Remember you mentioning you moved a while back and tweaked your knees pretty good with all the heavy lifting. We're moving this week as part of the knee experiment so I can live in a house where I don't have to climb stairs... hopefully this helps the chondro... And for the first time we're hiring a moving company. Odd feeling of wounded ego parsing out the labor. It's tough to let those ideas go about what I could do with what's practical and best for the knees.


    1. R-X, like you I had to move to help my knees as we had a big garden that needed lots of mowing/pruning/chain-sawing. Now have a small easy-care garden. Besides, we'd been in our old house 18yrs and it was time to change.

  5. Hi,

    This is "Knee Pain" who has written several times during 2012-2013, but not much lately. I chuckled over the slow moving comment in Richards initial post because in my many ups and down on this journey, yes there are times when I walk very very slowly -- sometimes earning myself curious looks because externally there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with me.

    But, then as I improve, one day I'm walking along and I actually PASS someone. I'm secretly cheering on the inside: "I'm not the slowest one! I passed someone!"

    -- "Knee Pain"

    1. Yes! Small victories, it seems, but they count for a lot. Hope to hear more about your progress in the days, weeks, and months ahead. I know it's hard. Cheers.

  6. This post made me laugh. Especially about the running 5 miles. That is so me. It is horrible and I am trying to get better about it. I just love being outdoors and I have two dogs and they really get me moving. But the next day I always feel it and it never feels good. I will learn eventually.

    Agnes Lawson @ Pain Relief Experts