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.