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  • Writer's pictureLuke Nelson

Is running bad for your knees?

Debunking the Myth: Running is Not Bad for Your Knees


For years, a pervasive myth has circulated that running is detrimental to the knees, causing long-term damage and increasing the risk of arthritis. However, recent scientific research challenges this belief, suggesting that not only is running not harmful to the knees, but it may actually be beneficial for joint health. In this blog post, we'll explore the evidence supporting the idea that running is not bad for the knees and may even contribute to overall joint well-being.


Longitudinal Studies Contradict the Myth

Several long-term studies have investigated the impact of running on knee health, and the results are surprising. One groundbreaking study led by Chakravarty, followed 45 runners and 58 non-runners for 18 years with serial knee radiographs. Astonishingly, the findings unveiled that runners did not exhibit a higher incidence of knee osteoarthritis when compared to their non-running counterparts.



Joint Health Benefits of Running

Contrary to popular belief, running may confer advantageous effects on joint health. A 2017 meta-analysis, featured in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, scrutinized hip and knee osteoarthritis rates among competitive runners, recreational runners, and non-runners. The results were intriguing—while competitive runners demonstrated the highest rate of knee and hip arthritis at 13.3%, recreational runners showcased the lowest rate at 3.5%, in contrast to the 10.2% observed in non-runners. This suggests that while excessive running might not be ideal for joints, moderate running could be more beneficial than abstaining altogether. A recent systematic review by Dhillon further asserted that, in the short term, running is not associated with deteriorating symptoms or radiological signs of knee osteoarthritis and might even act protectively against knee pain.



Can running reverse knee damage?

A 2019 study by Horga delved into the effects of training for and completing a marathon on knee health. Examining 82 healthy adults participating in their inaugural marathon, the study employed MRI scans both before and after the event. Surprisingly, the results indicated an IMPROVEMENT in damaged knee structures following the marathon.



Conclusion:

In summary, the prevailing myth that running is deleterious to the knees lacks support from current scientific evidence. Longitudinal studies, investigations into synovial fluid production, and research on cartilage health collectively endorse the idea that running can be a joint-friendly activity. Naturally, as with any physical pursuit, adopting a gradual training progression and considering individual health conditions is crucial. So, lace up those running shoes and hit the pavement – your knees may well thank you in the long run.





📚References

  • Alentorn-Geli E, Samuelsson K, Musahl V, et al. The association of recreational and competitive running with hip and knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2017;47:373–90.

  • Chakravarty, E. F., et al. (2008). "Long distance running and knee osteoarthritis. A prospective study." Am J Prev Med 35(2): 133-138.

  • Dhillon J, Kraeutler MJ, Belk JW, et al. Effects of Running on the Development of Knee Osteoarthritis: An Updated Systematic Review at Short-Term Follow-up. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine. 2023;11(3).

  • Dong X, Li C, Liu J, et al. The effect of running on knee joint cartilage: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Phys Ther Sport 2021;47:147–55.

  • Heckelman LN, Riofrio AD, Vinson EN, et al. Dose and recovery response of Patellofemoral cartilage deformations to running. Orthop J Sports Med 2020;8:232596712096751.

  • Horga LM, Henckel J, Fotiadou A, et al. Can marathon running improve knee damage of middle-aged adults? A prospective cohort study. BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. 2019;5(1):e000586. Published 2019 Oct 16.


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