By Ashley Currall – Physiotherapist
Running ruins your knees, right???
It seems to be a common belief that too much running will ‘wear out’ your joints and cause osteoarthritis. You may have also heard of a friend whose doctor advised them that they have ‘worn out’ their cartilage, by participating in running sports have been recommended never to run again to protect their joints. As a physio, I’ve lost count to how many people have told me that they have ‘worn out’ their knees by running when they were younger.
What does the research suggest
A recent analysis of approximately 115,000 individuals investigated the incidence of osteoarthritis (OA), affecting hips and knees in three different groups (1). These were:
- Professional runners- those who competed at an elite or international level,
- Recreational runners- amateur runners and those who ran for fun and
- Sedentary non-runners.
The results found that the highest rates of hip and knee osteoarthritis was found in the professional runner groups who had a prevalence of OA 13.3%, followed by sedentary non-runners at 10.2%. Interestingly recreational runners prevalence of OA was only 3.5%!!
This study helps us to understand that it is more the sedentary lifestyle or conversely heavy training loads of elite level sport which are both associated with higher levels of joint degeneration. Ordinary, recreational runners had the least incidence of hip and knee osteoarthritis, and perhaps a protective effect from the exercise.
For many years, physiotherapists and exercise physiologists have been encouraging our clients and patients to exercise in order to help recovery from injury, returning to their favourite activities and manage pain and prevent chronic disease. We can be confident that exercise is therapeutic and does not harm our cartilage and joints.
Other benefits of running include the prevention of at least 35 chronic health conditions, a 25-40% reduce risk of premature mortality and on average, runners live 3 years longer than non-runners!! (2). The many benefits of exercise surely are motivating to get those shoes laced up.
A Running Assessment can help you to get started or improve your performance
If running has been a passion of yours in the past, you have never run and would like to start, or concerned about a niggling issue with your running, come talk to a physiotherapist for a running assessment and analysis and individual treatment plan to help you reach your goals.
We offer Running Assessments. This 90 min assessment with a physio will involve a history of your running or previous injury, as well as strength and mobility testing, you’ll then head over to the treadmill for an analysis of your running bio mechanics. The physio will video your running technique whilst on the treadmill, to give you a greater understanding of your running technique and address issues like ‘heavy’ or ‘stompy’ running, or if you hinge through one hip or shin pain. They will assess your cadence, gait, and any niggles that may arise, and advise how you can adjust this to improve your performance or reduce pain.