Running is not bad for your knees

If you’re a runner or have recently started running, I’m sure you’ve heard “running’s bad for your knee joints right?”

Unfortunately I hear this a lot from those that have been to a health professional with knee pain after running. They’re told to stop and they don’t want to. So, instead of stopping the activity you enjoy – why don’t we find a way to get you back to it?

We know running is a great form of exercise with benefits such as:

So how does it affect the knees?

IMPORTANT: Think you have knee arthritis?

Knee joint loading exercises (such as running, squats, lunges etc.) do not appear to be harmful in those at risk for or with knee arthritis. In one study, it actually helped stimulate articular cartilage growth. Incredibly, this has also been seen where running strengthens the discs in your back.

So if running helps the knee cartilage – why do you get pain when you run? Does this mean there are some other factors – factors that we can change that are causing the pain?

A woman running along a track

Before you give up on running for life, try out the following tips and see if it makes the change you want.

Temporarily reduce running or change activity

Especially if your knee is so acute and sore that you’re unable to do any running, this is a sign we need to change something. This will reduce the load on the knee to give it time to settle. Again this is temporary, if you stop long term the next point will happen!

Don’t fully rest

Totally stopping all running is a short term not a long term solution. Simply put, a structure (muscle, joint, ligament) that is not loaded at all, will de-condition or reduce it’s ability to do what it did before. Think about that first New Years run after a Christmas break – SO much harder, that’s because usually its been a few weeks since you last ran – you’re not used to it!

This is a similar point to the previous one; pain tends to come along when we put the body through an activity that it is either not prepared for or it deems as potentially harmful. So, if you wake up one day and decide to run a marathon, this is too much and is not going to end well (unless you’re Mo Farah). But ‘too much’ varies for everybody and can be as simple as a run around the block, if you’re not used to it, it can cause an issue.

Be realistic, start slow and build up. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t feel fully “worked out” or knackered after a run, you can up it next time. This is a marathon not a sprint (… a running pun sorry).

Get stronger

Strong legs are more resilient to injury. Supplement your running with exercises such as squats, lunges, clams, and calf raises. I write about my favourite bang-for-your-buck exercise to help all knee pain in my kn’eed help blog.

Ice

Use ice in a wrapped in a cold wet tea towel and hold onto the area for 10 minutes after the run. You’ll feel much better. 

Warm up before and stretch afterwards

A good thorough warm-up before you run is often sufficient to help ease you into the movement and prevent injury. To stretch afterwards will keep you muscles supple and improve your overall flexibility. It’s important to note which muscles feel particularly tight as these may be the ones holding you back and the ones you need to focus on!

Osteopathy

In addition to what I’ve said in this blog, I will also go through a physical assessment to identify muscle weakness or tightness and provide hands-on massage and joint mobilisations to provide immediate pain relief and improvements in mobility.

Taking it to the next level

All the above advice should be enough to get you well on your way to being pain-free but if it’s sticking around or if you want to up your performance levels then you’ll need to consider a few more things.

  • Correcting your running technique
  • Specific training schedule (including pacing, intervals, and personalised stretching and strengthening routines)

So whether you’re a seasoned runner or a beginner, the advice is generally the same but differs in load.

If you want a hand getting over a niggling injury or help improve your performance, I’m here to help – get in contact and we can have a chat

Harry

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