Running affect my knees

Long-distance runners often hear warnings about how running could wear out their joints. This can cause concern that their regular running routines are harmful to their knees, or may lead to osteoarthritis.

Here we’ll explore whether running can lead to osteoarthritis, and also provide some practical tips to help protect the knees when running.

Can running lead to osteoarthritis?

Contrary to popular belief, running may not be a cause of osteoarthritis. In fact, research indicates that runners generally have fewer cases of knee osteoarthritis compared to those who lead a sedentary lifestyle. Studies also suggest that runners often experience less knee pain.

Running does cause temporary changes in the knee cartilage, but some experts believe this conditions the cartilage over time. So, rather than damage the knee, it can help to improve overall strength and mobility.

Another way running can reduce the risk of knee osteoarthritis, is it helps to lower your BMI (Body Mass Index). Runners typically have a low BMI due to the distances they cover.

However, while running may not necessarily lead to osteoarthritis, you can still suffer various injuries, especially if you don’t take proper precautions.

What factors increase the risk of arthritis?

Running itself isn’t detrimental to knee health, but there are several other factors that can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis. These include:

  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Overweight/Obesity
  • Previous joint injuries
  • Repetitive stress on the joint

Age is a primary factor, as the wear and tear on joints tend to accumulate over time. However, genetics play a significant role too, as a family history of arthritis means you may have a higher risk of developing it yourself.

Excessive weight puts additional stress on the joints, exacerbating the risk of damage and arthritis. If you’ve had previous joint injuries, or you work in certain occupations that demand repetitive stress on the joints, these factors can also increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis.

Tips for running safely

To protect your knees and ensure that running remains a beneficial part of your routine, there’s a few tips you’ll want to follow.

Start with a proper warm-up routine to prepare your joints and muscles for the impact of running. Choosing the right running shoes is also invaluable. Make sure you look for shoes that offer good support and suit the arch of your foot and running style. Gradually increasing the distance and intensity of your runs can also help avoid overloading the knees.

Another way to protect yourself from knee injury is by incorporating some strength and conditioning around your running, using weights or bodyweight exercises e.g. Pilates. It’s best to seek the advice of a physio/PT/coach for a tailored exercise plan that fits around your running goals and your specific biomechanical needs.

Running should be a joy and a health boost, not a source of pain. By taking the right precautions, you can continue to enjoy the benefits of running without compromising your knee health.

If you experience any discomfort in your knee after running, book a consultation with Mr Shah Punwar.

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