There is a thought among the general population, as well as some health professionals, that running is not good for your knees. It makes sense in some ways given that joint load forces are approximately 8X body weight at the knee and 5X bodyweight at the hip. Along with this, the thought is that the more someone runs (distance, times, and years) the more likely they are to develop knee problems-specifically knee and hip arthritis. But, is this really true? What does the research say? [...]
There is a thought among the general population, as well as some health professionals, that running is not good for your knees. It makes sense in some ways given that joint load forces are approximately 8X body weight at the knee and 5X bodyweight at the hip. Along with this, the thought is that the more someone runs (distance, times, and years) the more likely they are to develop knee problems-specifically knee and hip arthritis. But, is this really true? What does the research say?
In a recent study published in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, the researchers aim was to describe hip and knee health in active marathon runners, including the prevalence of pain, arthritis, and arthroplasty (joint replacements), and associated risk factors. Additionally they compared arthritis prevalence estimates for a matched U.S. adult population.
Surveys were sent to 953 marathon runners and 675 of these people provided information with regard to hip and knee health and running history. In order to be included, the runner had to have completed more than 5 marathons and be currently active in running a minimum of 10 miles per week.
The results found that 47% of marathoners had experienced hip or knee pain (22% knee, 11% hip, and 13% hip and knee). The rate of arthritis in marathoners was 8.9% (5.8% of the knee and 2.1% of the hip).
When the prevalence of arthritis in marathoners was compared to a matched group of the general U.S. population, the studies found that just like the general population, increased prevalence was found with age, being female, and among those who were overweight or obese. However, the overall prevalence of arthritis among marathoners (8.8%) was significantly lower than the matched U.S. population (17.9%). In fact, even when groups were compared with matched subjects in regard to age, sex, BMI, and physical activity level, marathoners had significantly less arthritis. Despite an increasing arthritis rate with BMI and age, the higher physical activity in marathoners was related to diminished arthritis rates. See graph.
Now, does this mean that there is no risk involved with running. Well, not necessarily. Risk factors found for the development of arthritis were increasing age (same as any population), runners with a family history of arthritis, or a previous history of hip or knee surgical procedures. Running duration, intensity, weekly mileage, or number of marathons did not show any positive relationship with the development of arthritis.
So, what does this mean? It shows that running does NOT increase your risk of developing arthritis and that running as a physical activity may actually support joint health. This current study, along with others, support a protective role of physical activity (running) in joint health.
If you are an experienced runner or a beginning runner who is experiencing some knee or hip pain, this does not mean that what you are doing is bad for your joints. It does mean that you should get some help. There are many things that can be done from a training, exercise, and treatment perspective that can allow you to run without being limited by pain. If you need some assistance or would just like some questions answered, feel free to contact me.
As always, thanks for reading.