3 Lies The Internet Tells You About Pain and Injury If You’re Over 40

 In arthritis, MRI

Pain and injuries stop so many people from living their lives the way they want to: gardening, playing with grandkids, walking through Costco without having to hang onto a cart, getting back into the gym… and I want to be a voice that lets you know you are not broken, the X-ray or MRI does not prove you’re broken and just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you are doomed to be in pain– despite what the internet, well-meaning friends or even your doctor have told you. Your body problem may not be as bad as you think and the solution to it may be closer than you’ve been led to believe.  So, let’s clear some of these up right now:

Lie 1: You Are Broken.

Lets just start with that. There are so many conditions that feel permanent, scare the heck out of us as we experience them and keep us up at night hoping and praying that when we wake up in the morning that we will feel better. But the thing is, there are SO many body problems that are reversible with time – even though the common ‘advice’ or perspectives, and especially the internet, says you ‘just have to live with it.’

Part of what I’m talking about are all the “-itis” diagnoses: arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis, etc. As you probably know, all “-itis” means is “inflammation” of that area. If it’s an “-itis” it can get better though, and doesn’t at all have to be permanent. Usually it’s a matter of temporarily stopping doing the movements that are causing it (buzzkill alert: this usually means stopping the fun stuff you did to create it, even if it’s something mellow like using the computer a bunch or vacuuming too many rooms at a time- yes, some people think cleaning the house is fun!). Stopping the ‘bad’ movements and becoming aware of how to move correctly is part of this. The next step is to loosen up tight muscles and joints around the area. Then build up, gently, the strength around that region.

But everyone’s different, and needs a little different intensity or modification, so sometimes we need some guidance. But seriously, it’s not rocket surgery once you know what your specific body needs: rest, loosen up, strengthen. BAM. Done.

Lie 2: Your X-ray or MRI Proves you’re broken.

So say you have a bulging disc that the doctor says needs surgery, a rotator cuff tear they “need to fix” or “bone-on-bone” arthritis. Bottom line, bulging discs can suck back in, rotator cuffs can get better, and once you restore the natural balance around an (even severely) arthritic joint- it’s amazing how the body can heal itself and adapt naturally.


Here’s what x-rays and MRI’s ‘technically’ show us: x-rays show bones and a few soft tissue things like fluid buildup and tissue densities, but that’s about it. They are good at showing broken bones, bone spurs and bone alignment. MRI’s show soft tissue really well, such as spinal discs and if they’re bulging, the spinal cord and whether a tendon or ligament is torn near or inside a joint.


So x-rays show us if something is broken or if a sharp bone is shredding something, but barring that, for most musculoskeletal things, they don’t change what we do to treat our patients too much. And even MRI’s, as fancy-dancy as they are have some serious limitations you should know about. Here’s the thing: just about all of us over the age of 40 have some ligament or tendon partially torn somewhere, have arthritis ‘growing’ in a few joints here and there and even have discs bulging in our spines… but none of those mean that’s where our pain is coming from.

There was a recent study done that shows that for a group of 50 year olds WITHOUT back pain, that 60% of them had a bulging disc and 80% of them had ‘arthritis’- but I’ll say it again- they had NO PAIN. So take it with a grain of salt if your X-ray shows “degenerative changes of the discs” or “bulging discs” or “degenerative joint changes” of the knee or shoulder or elsewhere.  There are plenty of people walking around out there with the same X-ray or MRI results that are totally pain-free: it’s likely something else that is the ROOT cause of your pain and there’s probably a simple solution if you get the right help.

Your MRI is just one view of what’s going on- there are many other aspects of our bodies that we look at here in the office that help us see your potential for healing. The official diagnosis, the X-ray or the MRI are rarely the most important factor.

Lie 3: You’re in pain because “You’re Getting Old.”

We worry that we’re getting old and this new pain or body problem is the beginning of the end. Yes, if you’re over 30 you probably have some arthritis going on somewhere in your body. But that doesn’t mean things have to hurt all the time. It’s like this: if, for example, your knee has arthritis and is painful, the cartilage is starting to roughen and it is inflamed. But this is what we do all day here in therapy: if you stretch, massage and mobilize the soft tissues around the knee in the right way, the tightness of the muscles loosen and the compression on that joint releases and the knee pain goes away. Then, you strengthen the muscles around the knee (or whatever joint we’re talking about) and then you can tolerate more movement of it and get back to using that joint during your daily activities and fun stuff of your life.

Our favorite job here at Active Physical Therapy is:  assisting, empowering and surprising people who have been dealing with pain far too long.  The ones who have thought they could never feel different, but still hold out hope; have been told they were beyond help; or told they need dangerous surgery; or have failed other PT &/or chiropractic treatments elsewhere – they get better here and get back to their ‘real’ lives again.

Of course it takes a little time and some effort, but it’s doable, even if the internet or even your doctor tells you otherwise.

If you have pain and your doctor has told you, “You’re just getting older… or you just have arthritis… or you just have to live with it’, we need to talk.

Send us a note  or comment below and tell us your own story and what you’ve been told about your body that is supposedly permanent or caused because you ‘are getting old’. We are full-on ‘body nerds’ here at Active Physical Therapy, and we’d love to hear what’s going on with you that might just be reversible!  Our greatest wish is to see if you might just be better off than you thought, and able to get back to your ‘real life’ after all.


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