Ask a Doctor: Is running bad for your knees?

Ask a Doctor: Is running bad for your knees?

April 29th, 2019 by Jesse Doty, M.D. in Life Entertainment

Dr. Jesse Doty

Dr. Jesse Doty

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Q: We've heard it for years: Running is bad for your knees. But is that actually true?

A: Some people think running gradually wears away the cartilage in the knees. When you're running, you're putting a good deal of force and pressure on your knee joint, so one might assume that runners eventually develop knee pain and arthritis.

There's actually not a whole lot of evidence to back up that claim. Recent research suggests that exercise may actually have some positive effects on the lower extremity joints. Running can ultimately benefit the joint cartilage because running may be associated with a lower body mass, which would put less stress on the joints.

A 2017 Baylor College of Medicine study found that knee fluid samples after running had significantly lower levels of inflammatory-type cells. In contrast, samples after sitting showed an increase in inflammatory molecules in the joint fluid. This data suggests that running could theoretically benefit the joints by protecting them from inflammation.

Some important things to consider if you're interested in running:

* Choose the right shoes and replace your exercise shoes regularly. See an expert to be fitted with appropriate footwear based on the shape of your foot. Most people should replace their exercise shoes about every six months or 600 miles.

* Switch up your workouts. Whether it's running or another form of exercise, too much of a good thing can ultimately cause problems. Overuse injuries can occur without proper diversification of workout routines. Try to work in less impactful cardio routines such as swimming, cycling, or elliptical training.

* Watch your form. Routine stretching and regular evaluation of your stride or exercise form can help ensure proper form and avoid injury.

* If you hurt, stop. If you experience newly onset pain, stop the activity. If you continue running with something such as tendonitis or a stress fracture, you may exacerbate the injury and increase the time for recovery.

* Nutrition is paramount. Amount and type of calories consumed can be equally as important as exercise. Adequate hydration as well as vitamin and mineral levels can help prevent certain types of injuries.

— Jesse Doty, M.D., Erlanger Orthopaedic Institute