Is running bad for our knees?


October 19, 2018 (Vancouver, BC): A recent study by researchers from the University of British Columbia’s Department of Physical Therapy and Arthritis Research Canada has revealed that Canadians view running as an activity that can damage their knees, but little evidence proves the connection.


This study is the first to provide data on how the general public and healthcare practitioners perceive running with respect to knee joint health, as well as their perceptions of running as an appropriate activity for individuals diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis. 


Researchers surveyed a total of 114 non-runners, 388 runners and 329 healthcare professionals.


Out of the general public, 13% believed running to be detrimental for the knee joint and 26% were unsure. But 48% believed that running in the presence of knee osteoarthritis would make it worse and 53% thought running would lead to premature joint replacement surgery.


“People traditionally associate running with knee joint problems because the knee is the most frequently injured body part in runners,” said Dr. Jean-Francois Esculier, a postdoctoral researcher, and the study’s lead author. “But recent evidence is inconclusive about whether or not running actually causes knee osteoarthritis.”


What researchers do know is that regular physical activity can reduce the incidence of osteoarthritis – largely because it helps people manage their weight. It can also have a positive impact on individuals already diagnosed with this form of arthritis.


This research is important because there is currently a lack of knowledge about the impact of running on knee osteoarthritis.


“This lack of knowledge – especially in terms of prevention and treatment – limits medical practitioners’ ability to provide patients with clear advice,” said Dr. Michael Hunt, an affiliate scientist at Arthritis Research Canada and the study’s senior author. “And unfortunately, too many people are told to stop running after receiving a knee osteoarthritis diagnosis. If running is a patient’s favourite activity, this can be detrimental to both their physical and mental health.”


Osteoarthritis is a leading cause of long-term disability in Canada and around the globe, causing chronic pain, limiting a person’s ability to do physical activity, and eventually decreasing their quality of life.


“Documenting beliefs in the general population regarding running as a risk factor for developing knee osteoarthritis is needed to assist in promoting meaningful activities for the prevention of this joint disease,” Hunt said.


To view the paper, please click here.


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Arthritis Research Canada is the largest clinical arthritis research centre in North America. Our mission is to transform the lives of people living with arthritis through research and engagement. Led by world-renowned rheumatologist, Dr. John Esdaile, Arthritis Research Canada’s scientific team of over 100 are creating a future where people living with arthritis are empowered to triumph over pain and disability. Within British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, Arthritis Research Canada is leading research aimed at arthritis prevention, early diagnosis and treatment, and quality of life issues.


For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:  

Heather Caulder

Marketing and Communications Coordinator

Arthritis Research Canada

604-207-4010 or hcaulder@arthritisresearch.ca

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