Why does my knee hurt? Someone must know

Five years ago, when I was at the 2010 SVPCA meeting in Cambridge, my knees were very painful. Walking was a trial, and going up and down the steps to the accommodation was pretty awful. I had no idea why my knees had started hurting, and neither did the doctor who I consulted. I also have no idea why they stopped hurting a little later. This whole episode makes no sense, given my generally good health.


A few months ago, the same thing happened, but this time to my left foot. Again the doctor said my join was inflamed but he didn’t know why. (It could have been worse: he could have said I was suffering from idiopathic arthralgia.) And again, it cleared up on its own after a few days.

Yesterday and today, my left knee is painful, and I can’t really bend that leg. It makes it hard to go up and down stairs.

Why is this happening to me?

I ask not in a spirit of complaint, but of inquiry. It seems wrong to me that doctors can’t tell me why it happens, nor what I should do to help it pass more quickly, nor (most important) what I should avoid doing to avoid a recurrence. Surely someone knows what’s going on in such cases?

Or is this more than ignorance? Has it been somehow determined that it’s theoretically impossible to know the cause, just as we can’t determine from four-postulate geometry whether the parallel postulate is true? In other words, is looking for a reason a fool’s errand?

Does anyone know if there’s any research on this kind of thing?


5 responses to “Why does my knee hurt? Someone must know

  1. If only you could get a physiotherapist to look at it…

  2. I did have a physiotherapist conveniently located right at my house a couple of days ago; sadly, she legged it shortly before my symptoms began.

  3. Migratory polyarticular arthritis makes me think of infectious causes, gout, pseudogout, the seronegative spondylarthropathies, and any of the other rheumatologic diseases. Treatment for these vary far too much to remotely answer your question on what to do to avoid recurrence, but I personally would want to rule them out before calling it a fool’s errand!

  4. Thanks, Colin, this is good to know. The one concrete thing the doctor did tell me last time is that my foot problem was not gout. But that still leaves plenty of options.

  5. Did it respond to an anti-inflammatory drug like aspirin or ibuprofen?
    Was there some heavy or unusual usage a few days before the pain?

    The usual physical therapist answer would be that some of your muscles are weaker than they should be and not always the ones that you think. They’ll note that you have a knee problem and suggest you start doing sit ups to strengthen your abdomen or some weird pulling thing to strengthen your opposite side calf muscle. It generally sounds as if they have your anatomical chart upside down, but my experience, and that of people I know with muscle problems, suggests that there is some method to their madness.

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