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PT Myth Busters: “Running is Bad for Your Hips and Knees”

Updated: May 10, 2022

This is week 2 of our Myth Busters series of Blog articles. One debunked myth we hear a lot in PT is that running is bad for your hips and knees. Yes, some people may have knee or hip pain when they run, but there are other things going on, and it’s likely not the running that’s causing the problem, it’s the running that’s exposing the problem. Whether the problem is tightness, weakness, biomechanics, running surface, training methods, etc., running has a way of exposing our weaknesses, but it doesn’t inherently cause damage to our joints.

Not convinced? Check out these studies!

  1. “Is There an Association Between a History of Running and Symptomatic Knee Osteoarthritis? A Cross-Sectional Study From the Osteoarthritis Initiative” by Lo, Driban, et al in 2017 looked at x-ray images and symptomatic reports from 2,637 participants, 55.8% were female. They concluded that running did not increase the risk for knee arthritis.

  2. “Long distance running and knee osteoarthritis. A prospective study” by Chakravarty et al in 2008 looked at forty-five long-distance runners and 53 controls with a mean age of 58 (range 50-72) years old in 1984 who were studied through 2002 with serial knee radiographs (x-rays). What did they find? Long-distance running among healthy older individuals was not associated with accelerated radiographic OA (damage to knees on x-ray).

  3. “Low Prevalence of Hip and Knee Arthritis in Active Marathon Runners” by Ponzio, Syed, et al in 2018 actually found that the arthritis rate of active marathoners was below that of the general U.S. If runners did have arthritis in their knees or hips, it was more closely linked to their age, family history, and medical history. And these runners included 675 marathoners with an average age of 48 years (range was 18 to 79 years) who ran an average distance of 36 miles weekly (range was 10 to 150 miles weekly) over an average time of 19 years (range was 3 to 60 years) and completed an average of 76 marathons (range, 5 to 1,016 marathons). That’s a lot of running!!

What is more likely to cause arthritis in your hips or knees?

1. Family history

2. Surgical history

3. Obesity

4. Sedentary lifestyle

5. Poor diet and nutrition

So next time you think to tell yourself or someone else “all that running is going to wear your knees and hips out, you know?” you’ll know better. And don’t be embarrassed if you were or are one of these people, it is a very common urban myth and some earlier studies tried to blame running for arthritis, so there is still plenty of old information still floating around out there about this. Even some Orthopedics and Podiatrists still tell patients to stop running forever when their scans show some signs of wear and tear in the joints (don’t even get me going - see our previous blog about this topic).

Want to start or get back into running without worry or pain? See your Physical Therapist! If you would like to schedule a free consultation either by phone or in-person with one of our Doctors of PT, you can do so here

In good health,

Dr. Ashley Bertorelli, PT, DPT, Owner/Founder of The Green Room Physical Therapy

Ph: 518-326-3771

Clifton Park & Troy

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