In an article that was recently published in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, the authors took a group of runners who were over 50 years old and were diagnosed with arthritis in at least one knee. They had these runners answer questions about pain, function, overall health, and took x-rays of their knees at the beginning of the study. They then allowed these people to continue with running at their self-selected intensities and distances and followed up with them 4 years later.
If running was bad for knee arthritis, we would expect these runners to begin having more pain and difficulty running and likely even worsening of the arthritis seen on x-ray i.e. increased joint space narrowing. Expectation is not always accurate however! What this study found was that among people 50 years of age or older, with knee OA, self-selected running is associated with improved knee pain and not worsening knee pain or radiographically defined structural progression. Therefore, self-selected running, which is likely influenced by knee symptoms and may result in lower intensity and shorter duration sessions of exercise, need not be discouraged in people with knee OA.
This is great news if you are an older runner. You do not have to give up the activity that you enjoy and that keeps you healthy, both physically and mentally, just because you have been diagnosed as having knee arthritis! You may have to adjust your running occasionally based on how your knee feels, but long-term, running is not detrimental to your knee health and in fact, may actually make it feel better.
If you have been struggling with your running, or been told to stop, because of knee arthritis there are ways to get you back into running without being limited. You DO NOT have to give up your running. Reach out to me if you have questions and I would be happy to discuss some solutions for you and get you back to living a healthy, active life.
Thanks for reading.