There is a wealth of information available about all kinds of health conditions and injuries. For the most part, that’s a good thing. But there is risk as well, because not all this data is accurate, and perhaps even worse, some people use generic information from the Internet as a substitute for a doctor’s advice.
To the greatest extent possible, it’s important to separate fact from fiction when to comes to your health, because in many cases, there is little room for error. Furthermore, while information should empower you to have an intelligent conversation with your doctor about your injury, such a conversation should always take place at least once.
Only Knee Injuries Cause Knee Pain
This myth may be one of the worst of the bunch, because it is absolutely impossible to properly treat an injury if you do not know what is hurt.
In many cases, an injury in one part of the body projects pain into another area. Tennis elbow is a pretty good example, because all though pain presents in the elbow, the injury itself is actually caused by improper grip, such as the grip on a tennis racquet.
Just as elbow pain does not always mean elbow injury, knee pain does not always mean knee injury. The issues could be something else entirely, such as IT band syndrome. Because of overuse, the muscle bands in part of the thigh and leg tighten, causing pain, weakness, improper gait, and some other symptoms. Here’s a good article to find more information about IT band syndrome.
All Ligament Tears Require Surgery
While most ACL and MCL tears do require surgical intervention and months of downtime, that s not true for all such injuries. Actually, even if surgery is required, physical therapy is usually the first option, because many patients and practitioners prefer the most conservative approach and delve into more radical procedures only if the initial efforts fail.
Common ACL/MCL physical therapy approaches include:
Pain Management: Ice, when applied for about twenty minutes at a time, is an excellent analgesic. Many therapists also use TENS and some other forms of electrical stimulation.
Exercises: Certain forms of electrical stimulation are used here as well, in addition to balance and range of motion exercises.
Gait Training: Walking with crutches or a knee brace is not a natural act, so a good therapist will help patients get around with these devices in ways that require less effort and present less risk of reinjury.
Plyometrics: This word is a fancy term for addressing the psychological aspects of a serious knee injury, because patients must re-discover their confidence in activities like running and jumping.
It’s also important to decrease knee swelling, mostly through a combination of rest, ice, compression, and elevation (the RICE method).
Rest Means Inactivity
This myth is absolutely untrue. Complete inactivity will not only retard physical recovery, but also worsen the emotional symptoms associated with knee injuries.
There is a kernel of truth in this myth, because knee injury patients should avoid any weight-bearing exercise. However, no-impact exercises, such as swimming and biking, are definitely available. These exercises should help restore range of motion in the knee, which is one of the main objectives of physical therapy.
Inactivity also leads to a steep drop in endorphin production, and when these levels drop too much, people often get depressed.
Do Not Exercise Arthritic Knees
For years, doctors recommended that patients suffering from arthritic knees, as opposed to injured knees, refrain from exercise to give their knees time to adjust. However, the latest evidence indicates that this long-running diagnosis was wrong and that exercise is good for arthritic knees.
It turns out that exercise actually builds up lost cartilage as opposed to eroding whatever is left, so not exercising arthritic knees is like not exercising injured knees, and we’ve already talked about how bad that can be.
In most cases, knee injuries are fairly easy to deal with, assuming that you actively partner with your doctor, have a clear understanding of the nature and extent of your injury, have a solid recovery plan, and separate myths from facts.