Running and Arthritis
I figured that since I am a Physical Therapist and I get this question all the time, Does running cause arthritis? I would debunk this myth. Running does not cause arthritis. Let’s say that again, Running does not cause arthritis. I have had patients yell at me for being a runner because “aren’t you going to ruin your knees?”. The answer is no. In fact, I am protecting not only my knees by running but keeping my whole body working properly and most likely extending my life.
Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, is typically caused by “wear and tear” of the cartilage in your joints. This means that the cartilage, the tissue which typically cushions your joints, is broken down. In the worst-case scenario, you are left with a bone grinding on a bone.
This leads to pain, swelling, and stiffness. The risk factors for osteoarthritis are age, sex (women > men), obesity, prior injury or surgery to a joint, and genetics. Running is a weight-bearing activity that causes repetitive loading on your joints. This may sound bad but it is not necessarily. Runners typically have lower BMIs than non-runners, they tend to have stronger muscles, which can be protective of joints and they typically have better proprioception. (Lo et al 2018)
One recent study looked at runners over 50 years of age with knee osteoarthritis. It concluded that the participants had reduced knee pain from running, not increased and that their imaging results showed no worsening of their knee arthritis. (Lo et al. 2018) Another study looking at the same topic also concluded that “There is no increased risk of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis among self-selected runners compared with non-runners in a cohort recruited from the community. In those without osteoarthritis, running does not appear detrimental to the knees.” (Lo et al 2017)
In my opinion, having treated both runners and non with and without arthritis over many years, runners tend to be healthier by far and heal quicker than non-runners. As the articles above report runners in general are stronger, less likely to be overweight, and have better balance. To those out there running keep running. It is not running that will lead to joint issues.
Arthritis. (n.d.) Retrieved on October 22, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseasesconditions/arthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350772
Grace H. Lo, MD, MSc,1,2 Sarra M. Musa, MD,1 Jeffrey B. Driban, PhD,3 Andrea M. Kriska, PhD,4 Timothy E. McAlindon, MD, MPH,3 Richard B. Souza, PT, PhD,5 Nancy J. Petersen, PhD,1 Kristi L. Storti, PhD, MPH,6 Charles B. Eaton, MD, MS,7 Marc C. Hochberg, MD, MPH,8 Rebecca D. Jackson, MD,9 C. Kent Kwoh, MD,10 Michael C. Nevitt, PhD,11 and Maria E. Suarez-Almazor, MD, PhD12. (2018). Running Does Not Increase Symptoms or Structural Progression in People with Knee Osteoarthritis: Data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative Clin Rheumatol. 2018 Sep; 37(9): 2497–2504. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6095814/?fbclid=IwAR0U5wUt95K3spBGXXAZXBieYytC_nAyBmdWHfJBq0Ki2-PGukUx8ffWv6I
Grace H. Lo, MD MSc,1,2 Jeffrey B. Driban, PhD,3 Andrea M. Kriska, PhD,4 Timothy E. McAlindon, MD MPH,3 Richard B. Souza, PT PhD,5 Nancy J. Petersen, PhD,1 Kristi L. Storti, PhD MPH,6 Charles B. Eaton, MD, MS7 Marc C. Hochberg, MD MPH,8 Rebecca D. Jackson, MD,9 C. Kent Kwoh, MD,10 Michael C. Nevitt, PhD,11 and Maria E. Suarez-Almazor, MD PhD12. (2017). History of Running is Not Associated with Higher Risk of Symptomatic Knee Osteoarthritis: A Cross-Sectional Study from the Osteoarthritis Initiative. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2017 Feb; 69(2): 183–191. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5179322/