Is it Possible to Still Run with Bad Knees?

Ben Emanuel II

One of the reasons why a lot of people hate running is because they have “bad knees”. Is running really the reason why people end up with knee injuries in the first place?

One of the reasons why a lot of people hate running is because they have “bad knees”. Is running really the reason why people end up with knee injuries in the first place?

According to a study, running is not exactly causing people to develop osteoarthritis. Though many experts claim that overloading the knee constantly can cause the surrounding structures to deteriorate, numerous studies have debunked this claim. In fact, some may argue that runners are less likely to develop knee problems perhaps because of their lower weight.

Is Running Good For the Knees?

If you have an existing knee problem such as knee osteoarthritis, does it mean that you should be looking for another cardio exercise? Knee osteoarthritis means that your knee cartilage is already started to degenerate.

In this scenario, it might seem logical that you should stop running. However, if you are going to look at this situation in the eyes of health experts, we don’t know exactly if you should stop running.

There is a new study published in the Clinical Rheumatology journal that took a closer look at how running can affect an existing bad knee. According to this study, there is little evidence that suggests running is a harmful exercise for individuals with knee osteoarthritis. Running didn’t worsen their knee pain or showed any sign radiologically that suggests the surrounding structure worsened.

Though it might seem like good news, let’s not get carried away. You may argue that the test didn’t let the runners go crazy and run as much as they wanted to. At this point, gambling your health and mobility may not seem like a good idea. Having knee replacement surgery is not exactly a good thing.

Different Causes of Knee Pain from Running

Feeling some discomfort after running doesn’t always mean that your cartilage is already deteriorating and you should already stop running. Runner's knee could manifest from different conditions. Most of the time, it could be fixed by stretching and even by changing the way you run.

Aside from osteoarthritis, the runner's knee can be caused by other conditions that can be diagnosed by taking doing X-ray, MRI, and CT scan.

The runner’s knee better known as patellofemoral pain syndrome can manifest even if you are not running. It can be seen on people having their knee bent sitting in one place for a long time.

The bottom line is that the tissues surrounding the kneecap have become inflamed and irritated. For runners, runner’s knee might be caused by tight muscles because of an existing muscle imbalance or perhaps even poor running form.

Another common reason for runner’s knee is iliotibial (IT) band syndrome. The IT band is a connective tissue connecting the hip and outside of the knee. Once overused, this can tighten up and cause pain outside the knee. Some would recommend foam rolling the IT band. However, health experts are suggesting that you shouldn't be doing this because it can further irritate the nerve located on that part of your leg. Instead, they are recommending that you foam roll the surrounding muscles such as the quads, hamstring, and glutes instead.

However, you will also have to account for all your risk factors if you want to avoid experiencing knee injuries related to running. Different factors can contribute to running-related injuries including developing a bad knee. It could be your age, sex, height, and even genetics.

Also, there are those training-related factors that you should never overlook including the type of shoes that you are using plus the running hours/distance that you've logged throughout the week.

How to Deal with Knee Pain When Running?

For more running-friendly doctors, they’d usually suggest runners to use their symptoms as their barometer whether or not they should run on that day.

It could also mean that you should be investing in the right shoes, and you should be doing other exercises that could strengthen your muscles to allow your legs to tolerate the wear and tear of running.

Acute knee pain is also common among runners. Just like any inflammation-related injury, be sure to rest it to allow your body to recover. For the first 24 hours, you want to intermittently apply cold compress on the affected knee. And of course, be sure to limit its movement while you still feel knee pain.

Alternatives to Running

So what can you do instead of running in case you are suffering from runner’s knee? Runners who are constantly bothered by knee pain should also try other types of exercises that won’t irritate the surrounding tissues in your knees. Swimming is a great alternative because the buoyancy of the water puts less stress on your knees.

Also, it is possible to ride a bicycle instead of running. Plus, some bikes have multiple speed options that make it easier for you to enjoy a cardio workout without putting too much stress on the knees.

Final Thoughts

Did you know that according to statistics, 50% of all running-related injuries are knee-related concerns? It means that if you love running that much, there is a chance that you will encounter this type of injury one way or the other. On top of that, most running-related injuries are mostly due to overused connective and other supporting tissues.

In case you are dealing with a knee-related concern, be sure that you are going to discuss it with a doctor and/or a physical therapist. This will help resolve underlying issues plus allow you to do what you love for a longer period.