Are you suffering from chronic knee pain? Knee pain can make it difficult or impossible to walk the dog, exercise, participate in sports and other activities, and keep up with your grandkids. It can even get in the way of the intimacy you’ve always enjoyed with your spouse or partner. Plus, it’s just plain exhausting!
It’s natural to want the pain to go away so you can do the things you love to do, and pain meds can seem like a good choice. The trouble is, they come with a lot of problems. You’re probably familiar with some of them, like the addictive nature of prescription pain meds, or the danger to your liver, kidneys, or stomach from over-the-counter NSAIDs. But there’s one problem you might not have considered, and we’ll get to that soon. But first let’s talk about what’s going on inside your aching knees.
What Causes Chronic Knee Pain?
As we get older, the most common cause of knee pain is osteoarthritis. Basically, what happens is that over time the cartilage in your knee joint, called the meniscus, wears out. Sometimes this is caused by an injury earlier in life, like a meniscus tear; other times it’s simply a matter of repetitive stress caused by living a full and healthy life.
Whatever the cause, the cartilage gets thinner and thinner over time, until eventually your joint is rubbing bone against bone. When this happens, bone spurs begin to form, which are sort of like the bone version of scar tissue, and what remains of the cartilage and other soft tissues such as ligaments can get inflamed, pinched painfully between the increasingly sharp and rough bones. We call this condition osteoarthritis, and it’s not a fun way to live life.
Why Pain Meds Aren’t the Answer
Pain medication is really only focused on treating one thing: Pain.
The trouble is, pain is there for a reason. It’s sort of like the “Check Engine” light on your car’s dashboard. Just like the light is telling you there’s a problem with your car, the pain is telling you there’s a problem with your joint. You could just put a piece of tape over the light so you don’t see it, and that’s just what pain meds do: they make the problem seem to disappear, hiding it from you. Modern cars, just like our bodies, are designed really well, so chances are for a while, maybe months or even years, everything will seem just fine.
But it isn’t fine.
During that time, you’re actually hurting yourself worse by continuing to live with a problem you can’t feel.
The longer you cover up the problem, the worse the problem will get, until one day your car breaks down or the pain meds aren’t enough anymore. Unlike a car, which you can simply repair or replace in an afternoon, your body is a much bigger challenge. Surgeries like knee replacement have long recovery times, high failure rates, and tend to come with expiration dates when you’ll be expected to have yet another surgery.
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