Does Running Cause Knee Arthritis?
Have you ever been told not to run because you’ll get arthritis? As a runner, I had always accepted this common belief but kept running despite the perceived risks. The notion of running leading to arthritis never made sense to me, given that one of the best treatments for arthritis is exercise. While studying Kinesiology at UBC, I learned that exercise is crucial for people dealing with osteoarthritis. Exercise increases strength, flexibility, and can reduce joint pain1.
So what does the research say? This study is hot off the press in 2017 “Is there an association between a history of running and symptomatic knee osteoarthritis?”2. Here are the key points:
There is no increased risk of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis in runners compared to non-runners
Running does not appear to be detrimental to the knees
Those who reported running on a regular basis at some point in their lives were less likely to report frequent knee pain, have arthritis in their knees, or have symptoms of arthritis compared to non-runners
Even past runners (people who don’t currently run) were shown to have less knee pain
Keep in mind that runners will still get knee pain and injuries from overuse and strain; however, they are not more likely to develop arthritis than non-runners. It’s quite likely that runners are more likely to develop IT band syndrome and patellofemoral pain syndrome than non-runners but that is a story for a different day. Anecdotally, some runners find that running on trails instead of pavement to be more comfortable on their joints. In addition, some runners find relief of symptoms with the right shoes, stretches, corrective exercises, or manual therapy.
Hopefully the information above has inspired you to get out and run!
Yours in health,
Dr. Gaelan Connell, BHK, DC
Exercise helps ease arthritis pain and stiffness. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/arthritis/in-depth/arthritis/art-20047971. Retrieved on March 18, 2017.
Lo, G. H., Driban, J. B., Kriska, A. M., McAlindon, T. E., Souza, R. B., Petersen, N. J., . . . Suarez‐Almazor, M. E. (2017). Is there an association between a history of running and symptomatic knee osteoarthritis? A Cross‐Sectional study from the osteoarthritis initiative. Arthritis Care & Research, 69(2), 183-191.