I was shopping at the mall I needed to sit down for a few minutes to feed the kids before going to the car. We sat at one of those little sitting areas in the mall. Naturally, there were other people sitting in that same area. One lady in particular was sitting in a chair rubbing her knees like she wanted to have a genie come out of them. After a few minutes the kids were settled and eating a snack but this lady is still rubbing her knees. She looked to be in her early 40s and average health so I couldn’t resist asking if she was okay.
I hear all the time from people that their knees are “bad”. In fact, I had a patient tell me that just last week. She even had knee replacement surgery and was still complaining about her knee pain. I started to ask her more about what on her knees hurt, when her knees hurt, and then I asked questions about her daily life and what activities she was able to do and what she was missing out on.
She was able to point where the pain was, she told me it was the same pain from before her surgery and it never went away. “I wish I never had the surgery.” She isn’t able to shop for long periods of time because standing and walking increase her pain, She is cautious of the type of seats she sits on because when they are to low she has difficulty getting up from them. She isn’t able to participate in any of the group fitness classes she wants because of her “bad knee”.
Most people that come to see me are looking for answers about a pain that is stopping them from their favorite activities. Many people are putting off seeing a Physical Therapist or another medical professional because they are afraid of being told they will need a surgery, or they will simply be given medication then dismissed, or they will be told the pain is just from being old and nothing can resolve the discomfort.
Before I tell you what could be increasing your pain, let’s look at a simple overview of the pain circuit and why pain is a vital sensation.
The basic pain process: Pain sensors (nociceptors) send messages through peripheral nerves from our muscles, joints, organs to our brain about pressure, temperature, and chemical changes. The peripheral nerves transfer this information to the central nervous system before being processed in the brain (thalamus, hypothalamus, limbic system, and sensory cortex). Our brains process the signal and decide whether to increase or decrease the intensity of the signal as it returns to the body.
Pain is important: The pain circuit allows us to process the data sensed by the peripheral nerves which allows us to save ourselves from detrimental damage or decide that the injury is minor. If the processing aspect was removed then we would have no control of how or when we feel pain. In a situation where moving in spite of an injury would save your life, there is a benefit to delaying pain sensation. Another benefit is not having the same reaction to a paper cut as a knife cutting your arm.
WE HELP ACTIVE ADULTS OVERCOME THEIR ACHES AND PAINS TO GET THEM BACK TO THEIR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES WITHOUT MEDICATION, INJECTIONS OR SURGERIES.
Dr. Molly McDonald