We’ve all been there before, whether at an urgent care or doctor’s office for a checkup visit with you doctor. The physician walks in and slaps your imaging up on the backlit screen and then starts talking about all the “damaged” and “degenerated” parts of your body on the images, without giving explanation or frame of reference. A lot of us have been told through the years that our spines are weakening and becoming brittle, or that our knees have irreparable “chondromalacia” under the joint. Often times many of our patients have been told by someone in the past to stop running, hiking, or weightlifting due to the “wear and tear” that it would cause. This outdated language and terminology is often very harmful to patients, and leaves them believing that their bodies are inherently fragile and prone to injury. We often see patients change their movement patterns and activities simply based on these misconceptions about their bodies.
Some of the modern research coming out is actually quite eye opening in regards to how the human body actually works. For example, the prevalence of disc bulges in asymptomatic and PAIN FREE individuals over the age of 60 has been estimated to be as high as >75%. This means that these patients have been walking around symptom free with disc herniations for some time, and are still able to enjoy their normal recreational activities simply because their bodies have adapted.
Another great example of this phenomenon is of imaging and scans done on healthy knees. A very recent study in 2020 took over 230 healthy individuals over the age of 50, and performed MRI scans on their knees. They found that about 97% had some significant defect or abnormality in the knees. They even reported that about 30% had signs of “severe and complex” meniscus tears, which would normally warrant a surgeon to recommend immediate surgical intervention! And remember, all of these patients were pain free and were just now having all of these issues diagnosed for the first time.
So, as you can see the human body is actually a very resilient structure and can adapt to many different types of stressors and injuries. Especially if you are not in pain or having joint issues, remember that you are not your MRI or Xray findings. If you are having any sort of knee, back, or shoulder pain it may be that something else at the root cause of your pain, and it may be beneficial to get it assessed by a Physical Therapist who is a movement specialist! By going down this route it will leave you with the knowledge of what is causing your pain, instead an image of the painful area that may or may not even factor into your pain.
I hope you found this blog article helpful and informative. If you have any questions don't hesitate to reach out to us for further guidance.