Does Running Cause Knee Damage?

29 Oct, 2020 | Dr. Malik | No Comments

Does Running Cause Knee Damage?

If you’re an avid runner, or if you are planning to start running, I am sure this question has crossed your mind. Does running cause long term knee damage? Or even worse, does running cause knee arthritis? 


On the surface, one would expect that constant loading and unloading of the knee joint would cause irreparable damage. Fortunately, however this does not appear to be the case.


Recent studies have shown that not only does running not cause damage, it actually helps to prevent knee arthritis. One particular study followed runners and non-runners for almost 20 years and found that knee arthritis developed in only 20% of the runners, compared to 32% in non-runners 


Another study followed more than 2,000 people who had a history of knee pain. After several years it was found that people who ran reported a decrease in the frequency of their knee pain. Runners were 29 percent less likely than non-runners to report frequent knee pain. 


Another study examined whether increased running would cause a decrease in physical abilities, during the later years of life. The study began with participants who were runners and non-runners, and at least 50 years of age. After 21 years, the study found that not only were there more participants in the running group who were still alive, but they also had fewer physical limitations than the study participants who were not runners. 


These studies show the incredible health benefits running has on the joints of the body. But the question arises: how does running improve joint health, and reduce the chance of arthritis?


Arthritis is the term used to describe wear and tear of the joints, resulting in the thinning and breakdown of knee cartilage. Running appears to help protect the joints from arthritis in a few ways:

  • By helping to reduce weight, which in turn helps to reduce stress on the bones and joints.  
  • By helping to reduce inflammation throughout the body, which can help reduce arthritis. 
  • Knee cartilage appears to respond well to stress. Running appears to keep the cartilage strong and healthy, which further reduces the chance of arthritis. 


But what if you already have bad knees, is it a good idea to start running now?


Generally, for most people, running appears to help improve the health of an injured knee joint. One study followed individuals over the age of 50, and who were diagnosed with knee arthritis. This study showed that eight-years later, long distance running did not increase the severity of their arthritis. Another study followed participants who had an MRI indicating knee damage. These participants underwent a four-month marathon training program. At the end of the program, these participants showed an improvement in their knee cartilage health. 


Running is a great activity, requiring minimal equipment, and providing great health benefits. If you are interested in running, but are unsure if your knees are ready, contact our clinic today for a free consultation! 


We wish you the best of health!





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