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Does running really hurt the knees?

Updated: Mar 21, 2023


Running can cause knee pain or discomfort in some individuals, but it is not necessarily true that running always hurts your knees.

Running is a high-impact activity that places stress on the joints, including the knees, and certain factors may increase the risk of knee pain or injury.


However, there is no evidence to suggest that running causes knee damage or arthritis in healthy individuals. In fact, regular running may actually have protective effects on the knee joint, by strengthening the muscles that support the knee and promoting joint lubrication.


Factors that may increase the risk of knee pain or injury in runners include:



  1. Overuse: Running too much, too fast, or too often can increase the risk of overuse injuries, such as patellofemoral pain syndrome or iliotibial band syndrome.

  2. Biomechanical issues: Abnormalities in foot, knee, or hip alignment can increase stress on the knee joint and increase the risk of injury.

  3. Poor footwear: Worn out or poorly fitting shoes can increase the risk of knee pain and injury.

  4. Previous injury: A history of knee injuries or surgeries may increase the risk of future knee problems.

  5. Age: As we age, the cartilage in our joints can wear down, increasing the risk of knee pain and arthritis.

It's important to listen to your body and address any knee pain or discomfort promptly, to avoid more serious injury or chronic pain. Incorporating proper training techniques, adequate rest and recovery, and strength training exercises can help prevent knee pain or injury in runners.

If you experience persistent or severe knee pain, it's important to see a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Read more on what the research says: Can Running Cause Osteoarthritis?

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BUT let's talk about a few types of knee pain that runners commonly experience:

  1. Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS): This is one of the most common types of knee pain in runners. It is caused by irritation of the cartilage under the kneecap and can result from overuse, muscle imbalances, or biomechanical issues.

  2. Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome: This occurs when the IT band, a band of tissue that runs from the hip to the knee, becomes tight and rubs against the outside of the knee joint. This can be caused by overuse, improper machines (cross over gait), or improper footwear.

  3. Patellar Tendinitis/Tendinopathy: This is an inflammation of the patellar tendon, which connects the kneecap to the shinbone. This can be caused by overuse or improper form while running.

  4. Meniscus Tears: The meniscus is a C-shaped piece of cartilage that cushions the knee joint. Runners can experience meniscus tears due to sudden twisting movements or overuse.

  5. Runner's Knee: This is a general term used to describe knee pain that is experienced by runners. It can be caused by any of the above conditions or other factors such as muscle weakness, improper footwear, or training errors.

It is important for runners to properly warm up before exercising, wear appropriate footwear, and gradually increase mileage to avoid overuse injuries. If knee pain persists, it might be time to get a Running Assessment.



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Here are 5 exercises that can help prevent knee pain in runners (See more on our IG posts):

  1. Single-Leg Squats: Stand on one leg with the other leg lifted off the ground. Slowly lower your body down into a squat position, keeping your weight on your heel and your knee in line with your toes. Repeat on the other leg. This exercise helps strengthen the muscles around the knee joint, improving stability and reducing the risk of injury.

  2. Clamshells: Lie on your side with your knees bent and feet together. Keeping your feet touching, lift the top knee up while keeping your heels together. Lower back down and repeat on the other side. This exercise helps strengthen the glutes, which can improve knee alignment and reduce stress on the knee joint.

  3. Hamstring Curls: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and lift one foot behind you, bending your knee to bring your heel towards your buttocks. Hold for a few seconds, then lower back down and repeat on the other leg. This exercise helps strengthen the hamstring muscles, which can help support the knee joint and prevent injury.

  4. Calf Raises: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and slowly lift onto your toes, then lower back down. This exercise helps strengthen the calf muscles, which can improve stability and support the knee joint.

  5. Hip Bridges: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Lift your hips up towards the ceiling, squeezing your glutes at the top, then lower back down. This exercise helps strengthen the glutes, which can improve knee alignment and reduce stress on the knee joint.

It's important to note that these exercises should be done in addition to a well-rounded training program that includes proper warm-up and cool-down, stretching, and strengthening exercises for the entire body. For more strength training for runners join our Strength Training for Runners.

Read more on what the research says: Injury Prevention in Recreational Runners


 

The strength of the feet can play a bigger role, than most think, in the knee stability/strength. Our 15-day Mobility Challenge helps do just that.

With an easy design: just push play and follow along!


 

Want more help?

Join our Running Workshop here!

Or

Learn how you can run more efficiently Running Assessment

Or

Get your FREE Strength Assessment here!

Or

Join our online 12-week strength program here!



I'll be posting more ideas this week on my IG & FB accounts




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