“Your doctor told you what?!”
It’s a thought I often have in my head as a patient is telling the things their doctor told them to stop doing…FOREVER…
I get it. Doctors don’t have a lot of time with you and they don’t want you to be in pain and it’s just easier to tell you to stop doing that painful thing.
But what if that painful thing is the thing you love? The thing you do to relieve stress? The thing you do when spending time with your friends or family? That’s when the cure can be worse than the disease.
The one I hear most often is the patient with knee pain who was told to give up running, especially if that pain is believed to be from osteoarthritis. But guess what. I know something you don’t know. I suspect it’s something many people in the medical field don’t know, but it should give you hope, you poor, grounded runner. Are you ready?
THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT RUNNING CAUSES ARTHRITIS!
Studies both large and small over the years have failed to conclude that running is a risk factor for hip or knee osteoarthritis. Here’s a large review of a lot of those studies by Willick and Hansen: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22632690.
And here’s a big study that was just published on June 22 that conclude the same thing: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27333572
And, folks, these findings that mechanical stresses don’t necessarily lead to future pain and injuries are not unique to running and knees. We see this in so many other body parts. Our bodies are not machines! They are much more adaptable than that. So when somebody tells you that you can’t do that activity you love any more, in most cases I would beg to differ. It may be a good idea to rest from it for a while if it hurts (or if you have a stress fracture. DON’T run on a stress fracture), but if you want to do it, there’s a good chance you still can with patience, prudence, and a plan (alliteration not intended).
Our bodies adapt to the stresses that we put on them. I firmly believe that with enough time and progressive loading we can adapt to almost anything. I often tell my patients, “If you had enough time and a plan you could run a marathon on your hands.” It turns out I’m not that far off. Witness Sarah Chapman:
Or Hafthor Bjornsson, aka “The Mountain” from Game of Thrones.
My point is this: you may still be able to do those things you like to do, even if they’re painful now. If the thing that causes you pain doesn’t matter to you then, by all means, quit and never do it again. But if you want to do that activity there’s a good chance you can.
Should you rest from an activity that is really hurting? Yes, that’s a prudent choice. But if you want to get back to it, I believe you can because I know that your body will adapt to the stresses you put on it.
Here’s the hard part: applying the right stress at the right level without causing your pain to return. This is where most people fail and give up. It requires patience and persistence. It would be helpful to keep an activity journal or even more helpful to have a guide.
If you’re in pain now and you were told you shouldn’t ever do that beloved activity again, don’t despair. All hope is not lost. Seek out a good physical therapist near you and discover how you can get back in the game! #GetPT1st
As with any medical condition, each person’s individual signs and symptoms vary widely based on many factors. The information in this blog is not intended to replace or supplant a thorough examination and diagnosis conducted by a duly licensed healthcare provider. No guarantees of specific results are expressly made or implied in this blog. By reading this publication you agree that following any advice herein is at your own risk and agree to hold harmless Gotham Physical Therapy, its owners, and its employees.