Calling All Runners! We May Have Some Good News for Your Knees

You’ve heard it from well-meaning people in your life more times than you can count: your mom, your friends, even that one annoying guy at the office. They all tell you that if you don’t give up running, eventually you’ll pay the price and blow out your knees. “It just isn’t good to pound on your joints like that,” they’ll say. If you’re like most runners, you’ll smile and nod and lace up regardless – because running is something you love to do. The real question – are they right and will you pay with your knees? Science may now have some data that falls on your side…and your knees’.

We’ve written about it before: use it or lose it. Well, although doctors and scientists thought for years that running might be a cause of arthritis, some recent studies indicate that running might actually prevent it! Thus, using your knees may protect them rather than damage them – use them so you don’t lose them, so to speak. One article we found showed that arthritis in the knee has been steadily increasing over generations – which is not part of the debate. The debate is the cause and researchers examined a group of runners and non-runners, expecting to find more instances of arthritis at the end of the trial in the runners group. Yet at the conclusion of the study the runners group had significantly less arthritis and although the study cited was small, the findings were significant enough to suggest a larger study may produce similar results.

According to the scientific data provided in the article, the knee actually needs weight-bearing exercise to stay strong. Furthermore, with regular weight-bearing exercise, the knee will actually increase some forms of strength. Even the knee’s exterior membrane requires weight-bearing exercise to continue optimum performance. Running is nothing if not a weight-bearing exercise: your body acts as a weight plus the force of running. A few years back, popular magazine Men’s Health published an article that noted that even the impressive force (2-3x your body weight) was offset by things like stride length – so in actuality your knees aren’t any more likely to be damaged by running than by your daily walking.

So if running isn’t responsible for knee arthritis, then what is? While being over-weight is a risk factor for a variety of knee-related issues, arthritis may not be one. The author behind the initial article we found theorized that although we do weigh more now as a society, we’re also more inactive and the inactivity may be what is actually responsible for the spike in arthritis of the knee. Once again, staying active and using what you have may keep you from losing it. So go ahead – the next time that friend or colleague with the good intentions asks you about your runner’s knees, feel free to turn the tables and ask how his/her knees are doing without the run!

If you’re active with knee pain or not as active as you’d like because of it, a visit to your physical therapist can help get you on the road again. With three locations serving central Indiana, Body One Physical Therapy is here to help:  North Indianapolis,  Zionsville, and Fishers. Set up your appointment today to meet with one of our trained and caring team members who will assess you and tailor a specific treatment plan to your exact needs. Head into spring and summer feeling your best – call Body One today!