The Downfall of Tolerable Knee Pain


[ read time ~ 3 minutes ]


For more information on this topic, access the guide to Save Your Knees.


Almost every week, a client or a prospective client shares with me something that they’ve been told about their knee pain.

It makes me cringe.

Every. Single. Time.

The story goes something like this.

They’ve been noticing knee pain. Maybe after a round of golf or a longer hike. Maybe they feel some knee pain when they take the stairs or after they sit for a few hours.

Their knee pain is not that bad. They can live with it. Or ignore it. But it keeps happening, so they decide to get their knees checked out by a doctor.

The doctor orders X-rays. The X-rays reveal mild or moderate arthritis, or perhaps “normal wear and tear.” The doctor offers either prescription medication or an over-the-counter option-- something to decrease the pain-- and gives them advice about staying active.

But the last thing they are told is what always disturbs me.

“Come back and see me when the pain gets worse.”

It’s not always these exact words. Sometimes they’re told, “Come back and see me when you can’t stand the pain.” Regardless, there is a strong implication that their knee pain will inevitably get worse.

The assumption is that their knee pain will not get better.

I cringe because accepting a lifetime of gradually worsening knee pain is not the only option.


You can DO something about knee pain.

But rarely are people made aware that an alternative exists. Maybe it’s because there isn’t enough time during a typical doctor’s visit to explain it. Maybe it’s because many people are looking for a quick fix.

Instead of knowing all of their options, they leave the doctor’s office and go on with their lives.

They stay active. They exercise to strengthen their muscles. And then, months or years later, their knee pain worsens. The dull ache or soreness becomes more frequent, maybe even constant. They may even wake up with some stiffness or discomfort.

So they follow the recommendations they were given, and they go back to see the doctor. This time they might get a cortisone injection. Or they may get gel injections (also known as hyaluronic acid injections).

This may help decrease their knee pain.

For a while.

Sooner or later, their knee pain returns and becomes severe. They are forced to give up golf or hiking. Or they push through these activities and pay for it when the pain is so bad that it forces them to limp, or it wakes them up at night.

When their knee pain becomes severe, they go back to the doctor who takes another set of X-rays. The X-rays confirm that the inside of their knees look much worse now. Possibly bad enough to be offered a joint replacement.

Are there any alternatives at this point?

Yes. But the improvement won’t be swift, and it may not be sufficient for a completely pain free return to all of someone’s activities.

Instead, let’s rewind to when the knee pain was tolerable.

Back when their knee pain was not that bad, what was the option that they could have chosen?

The option is not a quick fix.

Here's the commitment:

  1. a few minutes, several times per day;

  2. roughly 30 - 50 minutes, two or three times per week; &

  3. consistency for several months.


My colleague, Doug Kelsey, PT, PhD, and I have developed Better Knees for Life, a program for people with tolerable knee pain. Better Knees for Life offers step-by-step instructions that can be performed at home with very little equipment.

It helps you strengthen your knees from the inside-out (learn more about this approach by clicking here and here).

Better Knees for Life helps you get stronger, feel better and maybe best of all, feel more in control of your life.

For more information on this topic, access the guide to Save Your Knees.


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