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A Spooky Scary Thought: Is Running Bad for Your Knees?

dr. sam knee pain physical therapy running Oct 20, 2022


As a physical therapist, I am often asked if running is bad for your knees. Most people typically want to know what the long-term effects of running will have on their body, and want to know if they will develop knee osteoarthritis from running. Running is a simple and accessible option of exercise for most people, and has great overall health benefits. Many of my clients also report huge psychological benefits to running, so I find it important to limit fear based ideas that running is worse for your knees than not running at all.
With the fear of ruining your knees through running, only 3.5% of recreational runners have knee or hip arthritis. While just over 10% of sedentary individuals have knee or hip arthritis. This means you are almost 3x less likely to develop knee arthritis if you perform regular recreational running than if you just sat on the couch and did nothing. Moderate amounts of running may actually be beneficial to the long term health of your knee joints. 1
Continuing to run with a recent diagnosis of knee arthritis is also okay! Running does not appear to increase the speed of knee arthritis. However, if you are having difficulty recovering between runs, you may want to look at training load, cross training, or potentially altering your running mechanics. Running can help you maintain a healthy weight, that in turn will reduce the overall daily stress placed on the knee joints. Finding the optimal frequency, intensity and volume for your running to provide ample recovery time is important. 

Overall, runners should feel great about running with proper load progression, volume, and intensity management, as well as proper sleep and nutrition, to help with post run recovery! If you are currently recovering from a running injury, you can progress back while running on a treadmill or outside, as they both create similar reaction forces through the knee joint. You may also want to assess your knee, hip, and ankle joint mobility to ensure proper mechanics. 

If you have any questions or need help managing your running injuries, please reach out and we can help answer any remaining questions you may have! 

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​Thanks for reading,

Dr. Sam, PT, DPT, OCS

1 Alentorn- Geli E, Samuelsson K, Musahl V, etal. The association of recreational and competitive running with hip and knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta- analysis. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2017;47:373–90

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