Halloween is this weekend, which means there are going to be a lot of tricksters out there (and maybe one giant treat...I’m looking at you Braves!). While harmless pranks and scary decorations are all fun in games, there is no place for scaring people with bad, dated medical information. Our bodies are incredibly resilient and some of the common “scary” comments our patients have heard from other providers, or seen on imaging, really aren’t anything to be afraid of at all.
Okay, I know we’re all busy getting costumes and candy ready, so let’s jump right in.
“Worst case of bone on bone I’ve ever seen!”
If I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. “The doctor said I’m bone on bone!” “Worst case of arthritis he has ever seen!” Most often your physician or other healthcare provider is referring to something called osteoarthritis (also called Degenerative Joint Disease or DJD) in situations like this, and guess what… It is totally normal to have arthritis! More and more studies are coming out that show many active adults have some form of DJD and that calling this a “disease” is incredibly misleading.
While DJD cannot be reversed, it’s often not the main pain generator and can be easily managed with education on symptoms, appropriately prescribed exercise, and just good ol’ fashion exercise. Walking the dog, playing with your kids, gardening… all great examples of non-exercise based movement that keep your joints moving. As cheesy as it may sound, the old adage of “motion is lotion” is spot on and is the reason that “worst case of arthritis I’ve seen” shouldn’t get you weak in the knees.
This one hits close to home. At the young age of 14, I actually had two knee surgeries. One to attempt to repair my meniscus and one to remove it once the repair failed. Looking back on it and relating the symptoms I was having to what the research is now showing, I had no business getting either of those surgeries and you most likely don’t need one either. Once again, a torn or frayed meniscus is a normal sign of aging and is often found on imaging with people who have knee pain at all.
Even in an acute situation where a tear is found on an image after injuring your knee, as long as you don’t have a physical “block” in your knee, where that meniscus has essentially turned into a door stopper and impeds normal motion at the knee, you will be absolutely fine without surgery. In fact, research consistently shows that conservative treatment will have equal to (or better) results as surgery AND you won’t be setting yourself up for future complications associated with missing portions of your meniscus.
I’ll keep this one short. Simply put, in most situations, herniated discs do not require surgery. In fact, multiple studies have demonstrated that you can take 10 random people off the street with no back pain, give them an MRI, and an average of 7 out of 10 people’s images will come back with some variation of a herniated disc. In fact, “large low-risk-of-bias trial between surgery and usual conservative care found no statistically significant differences on any of the primary outcome measures after 1 and 2 years” (Jacobs et al). Our bodies are incredibly resilient and, in most cases, will heal just fine with appropriate treatment.
“You’ll never be able to do ‘X’ again.”
This is the most frustrating thing for me and the rest of the staff here at Athletes’ Potential. We are constantly hearing people come in and say something like, “My doctor said I’ll never be able to deadlift again,” or, “My physical therapist said I shouldn’t do CrossFit.” This is absurd and is a fallacy you shouldn’t fall for. We constantly get people coming into our office and we are constantly getting them back to the activities they love. A provider quickly dismissing an activity you do without any context is lazy, myopic, and an easy sign that you need to get a second opinion.
So, in review, there are a lot of scary phrases out there that, in reality, have no right to be scary. New research is being pumped out every day that our bodies are readily adaptable. If you’re in the Atlanta area and you’ve heard one of these phrases before, give us a call or fill out the contact request form by clicking the button below. We’d love nothing more than to help you get back to what you enjoy.
Thanks for reading,
Dr. Jacob, PT, DPT, CSCS
Dr. Danny and staff's views on performance improvement, injury prevention, and sometimes other random thoughts.