With spring upon us and summer right around the corner, everyone is eager to spend more time outdoors! Unfortunately, it’s also the time of year that we see more knee pain. With that being said, I want to share some tips for knee pain as well as a patient story that I hear quite frequently.
Nancy, a previous patient of ours, has given us permission to share her story and we want to know if you relate to it. “I thought my knee pain was just due to age or arthritis. I didn’t want to bother the doctor about it.” Nancy was 62 years old when she came to see us for knee pain and she is a retired nurse. She had suffered from knee pain for 3 years before seeking help. When she could no longer play on the floor with her grandkids she finally decided she couldn’t just “live” with it!
In her words “I had no idea that my knee pain was not the joint but a hamstring issue that was easily resolved with physical therapy! The hands-on treatment and the exercises work! Even if you think nothing can be done – think again!”
With Nancy’s treatment and every new patient we see, we started with a thorough evaluation that demonstrated how well she moved, her strength through specific muscles, and discussed what specific activities caused pain. Our initial evaluation essentially helped us find that her hamstring was more at fault than the knee joint. I’d also like to mention that we do the same orthopedic tests that orthopedic surgeons do that help us diagnose if the injury is related to soft tissues or the joint. Nancy did have an x-ray prior to coming to physical therapy confirming NO arthritis so she was fairly shocked. However, her doctor was not able to tell her WHAT tissues specifically were causing the pain or WHY it even started and left the treatment portion to us! It’s also important to note that family doctors are great at what they do; which is looking for signs and symptoms of diseases and ordering the correct tests while also referring you to specialists like us!
Now, why did her hamstring bother her for 3 years? Well, after listening to her story we found out she had been working at the gym with a trainer, which is awesome! We love to hear people staying committed to their health. However, there was a particular exercise that kept bothering the back of her knee/leg and she continued to “work through the pain” because she thought that was what she was supposed to do. She did not make the connection that that exercise was actually keeping the hamstring muscle strained to cause her knee pain later. We hear stories like this ALL the time! “I just thought it was no pain no gain” and yes that is partially true… a good workout should leave you sore but there is a difference in causing a strain vs building more strength.
She was relieved to know that her knee pain was treatable. We were happy to help Nancy in 5 weeks’ time. She is now able to get up and off the floor easily without pain. She is so glad that she didn’t chalk it up to “age” or just decided to live with the pain. Our biggest advice is to not ignore pain! Many times the pain you fear and the cause of it is not what you think it is! Even if you are in the healthcare field like Nancy, you may be surprised at what physical therapy truly does. Physical therapy helps you get back to your life with improved mobility and less pain. It is not just after surgery or major trauma. We are here to help you with that annoying pain that seems to stick around and slowly starts to impact your quality of life where you slowly start to avoid things or slow down compared to others. My advice is if you have had pain for about two weeks and it is not improving, come see us! There is no need to suffer longer, life is too short.
Nancy can now play on the floor with her grandkids and enjoy traveling and retirement! Thanks, Nancy for letting us share your story!
And EVEN IF you do have arthritis in your knees we have helped many people gain strength and mobility that they didn’t think was possible. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out on your own which exercises are the ones that won’t stress the knee joint, which ones are most effective, and that a few changes with your walking can decrease the impact on the knee joint. And how about the hips? If your hips are weak then they don’t help support the knee during walking and you have limited shock absorption. There are just too many variables to knee pain that you shouldn’t feel like you need to live with the pain.
As mentioned, there are so many details we look at besides the knee. We are like mechanics with the human body and when you affect one area it has an effect elsewhere. If you have knee pain you might need a “tune-up” that would decrease your pain and help you function better!
I look forward to talking to you next week!