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What a Runner Should Know about the Knee

Whether you're a marathon runner, you run in charity events, you log five miles a day, or you jog occasionally, there are important facts you should know about how running affects your knees. With this knowledge, you can adjust your running practice to best support your body and ensure you can keep running for a long time to come!

Couple Runs Outdoors

Is there a Link between Osteoarthritis and Running?

Do runners get arthritis in their knees more than non-runners or walkers? Two studies say no. A study of runners and non-runners monitored 45 long-distance runners and 53 non-runners, ranging in age from 50 to 72, from 1984 through 2002. At the end of the study, 20 percent of the runners as compared to 32 percent of the non-runners had prevalent osteoarthritis.

A study released in 2013 looked at the effects of running and walking on osteoarthritis and hip replacement risk. The study concluded running reduced osteoarthritis and hip replacement risk based, in part, on the association of running with body mass index. Of the 74,752 runners, 2,004 reported osteoarthritis and 259 reported hip replacements during the follow-up in 7.1 years. Of the 14,625 walkers, 696 reported osteoarthritis and 114 reported hip replacements during the follow-up in 5.7 years.

Loss of Cartilage

Does running accelerate the loss of cartilage in the knee? Aging has been linked to the loss of cartilage in the knee, but there's no steady proof that running accelerates the loss of cartilage. Can dietary supplements increase knee cartilage? There's nothing to show that supplements reverse the loss of cartilage. A study of the effect of vitamin D supplementation showed no decline in the progression of knee pain and cartilage loss from taking vitamin D3. The study involved 146 participants, some of which were given vitamin D3 daily, while others were given placebos. At the end of 2 years, there were no significant differences in pain and cartilage loss between the two groups.

Running on a Treadmill

Runner's Knee

Runner's knee refers to two common repetitive strain injuries of the knee that may affect runners. Iliotibial band syndrome usually causes pain on the side of the knee and tends to be worse when running up stairs or hills. Patellofemoral pain syndrome is more common and usually causes pain on the front of the knee under the kneecap. It's worse when running down steps or hills.

Other Factors

Running may not be the only cause of your knee problems. Knee pain could also stem from the following factors:

  • Biomedical problems such as weak hips, weak quadriceps, or tight hamstrings. A stretching and strengthening program can help prevent runner's knee.
  • Weight places more stress on your knees, so losing weight may improve pain.
  • Running uphill or downhill places torque on your knees, so running on level surfaces will be easier and less painful.
  • A misalignment of your kneecap, hips, ankles, leg muscles, or leg bones could be causing your knee pain. A symptom of misalignment is that one knee is more painful than the other.
  • Your shoes may be causing your knee pain. Wear shoes that are the right size and that are designed for running.

Call OrthoAtlanta if you experience runner's knee in Atlanta or if you suffer pain or an injury to your knee. A knee specialist will examine your knee and make sure you get the proper treatment, whether it's medication, a knee arthroscopy, or a knee replacement. Contact us today!

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