Knee pain is a common symptom in people of all ages. It may start suddenly, often after an injury or exercise. Knee pain also may begin as mild discomfort, then slowly get worse.
It can have different causes. Being overweight puts you at greater risk for knee problems. Overusing your knee can trigger knee problems that cause pain. If you have a history of arthritis, it could also cause knee pain.
Whether your pain is the result of a knee injury earlier in life or simply the byproduct of daily “wear and tear,” the first step to a more comfortable and active lifestyle is becoming informed.
There are many rumors around, concerning knee pain and its symptoms. Here’s a rundown of the top common misconceptions about knee pain.
Misconception #1. Knee pain is a normal part of aging.
Sure, the odds of having knee pain get higher as you get older.
The truth is, that aging has nothing to do with knee pain itself. As people get older, especially when they approach their late middle age, they might start experiencing issues related to their lifestyle. Excessive weight, for example, is a common issue for middle-aged people throughout the western world, and it can contribute to a lot of problems that affect bones and muscles.
Misconception #2. The more you exercise and use your joints, the more it hurts.
Spending life in an easy chair may be the worst thing you can do for knee pain. Doing some physical activity and exercise, if performed safely and correctly, can increase your recovery and prevent or reduce knee pain.
People experiencing joint pain should opt for types of movement that don’t require repeated impact on the joints—swimming, for instance, can be an excellent option, as would riding a stationary bike or practicing yoga. Even assisted movement, like physical therapy or massage, can help.
Misconception #3. Over-the-counter pain medicine can help.
You probably already knew this was a bad idea, but it makes you feel better—at least for a little bit. The problem, of course, is that you’re just masking your pain, which can’t be effectively treated until you know the source of it.
Anti-inflammatory pain medications don’t heal pain; they just block you from experiencing it. Long-term use of pain relief meds can indeed have a wide variety of very harmful side effects, such as dramatically increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes for the users. For this reason, many people who suffer from chronic pain choose to give up on medications to avoid such alarming risks.
Misconception #4. Surgery is the only long-term solution to knee pain.
Some people are strictly convinced that full and total recovery from knee pain and related issues can only be attained with surgery.
In reality, there are many other viable solutions, which are less invasive and equally (if not more) effective in the long run. Physical therapy comes to mind, as it can help reduce pain, and increase the speed of the recovery process exponentially.
Misconception #5. All knee pain originates from the knee.
Many of us thinks that "My knee hurts, so my knee is the problem." But it is not always the case. Just because your knee hurts doesn’t mean the problem is originating with your knee.
It could also be what’s called “referred pain” that actually originates in another area of the body, including the lower back, the hips, and more. The lower back can indeed spread pain through the lower limbs, often affecting areas like the knee, foot or even the calf, among others. Conversely, Injuries to the knee itself do not cause other body parts to ache. If you are having knee pain, but the knee itself is not tender to touch or there is no pain with the active movement then the lower back or hip may be the source.
Bottom Line: Getting older is a fact of life, but living with knee pain doesn’t have to be. The first step in getting better is finding out what’s wrong. You owe it to yourself to find out what’s going on. Learn when it’s time to see a doctor if you’re suffering from chronic knee pain.