Running is the oldest form of exercise but it’s also an exercise that tends to get a bad reputation. There’s a lot of controversy amongst the medical and fitness community on whether or not running causes more potential harm than good when it comes to the structural integrity of your knees.
So, the million-dollar question is, “Why do some people experience knee pain when they run and others do not?” That’s a complicated question to answer, but there are some self-assessments you can do to determine if long-term running is suited for you. We also have some tips you can follow to ensure you’re in the best position possible to keeping your knees pain-free.
Get Your Knees in Check
- What’s Your BMI? Your BMI is a measure of your body mass (your weight relative to your height) and is an important factor in the amount of stress placed on your knee joints. Maintaining a healthy body weight is crucial to the longevity of a runner’s knees. You can calculate your BMI here.
*Tip: The saying is you can’t out exercise a bad diet. Although running burns a lot of calories, you can still very easily maintain an unhealthy weight if you’re not eating properly. Make sure you get your BMI in a healthy range through proper diet rather than over training.
- What’s Your Family History? Sure, running places repetitive impact on the knees, but research has exonerated running as a cause of knee osteoarthritis. It appears that family history actually plays the leading role.
*Tip: Check your parents and grandparents history of knee osteoarthritis. When did they start experiencing symptoms, if any? How quickly and severe did the symptoms progress? Did any of them run regularly? If you have an extensive family history of knee osteoarthritis you’ll want to take that into account and adjust your running frequency accordingly.
- What’s Your Exercise History? There are many elements of exercise aside from just running. If you only focus on one of the elements you will create imbalances in the body and increase your risk of injury and pain.
*Tip: Make sure your weekly exercise program also includes plenty of stretching and strengthening of the lower body. The stronger your hamstrings, hip flexors, quadriceps, and calves are the more stable and protected your knee joints will be as shown here with these exercises.
- Is Your Knee Pain Chronic or Acute? Arthritic symptoms will typically come and go. Some weeks you may have more good days than bad and others weeks the opposite. It’s important to recognize if your pain is chronic from a degenerative disease such as osteoarthritis or if it is acute due to an injury such as a tear in one of the many knee ligaments or tendons.
*Tip: Make sure if you are experiencing knee pain (particularly new or unusual knee pain) that you go see an orthopedic doctor to have it diagnosed. Running with an acute injury, such as a tear, can put you on the sidelines for a long time; whereas arthritis pain will typically pass with R.I.C.E (Rest, Ice, Compression, & Elevation.)
- Are You Nourishing Your Joints? Most people don’t eat a well enough balanced diet to ensure their joints are being nourished properly. Furthermore, there are many nutrients not commonly found in foods that help support joint health.
*Tip: Along with a well-balanced diet, take a joint health supplement to ensure you’re providing your joints with all the nutrients needed for optimal joint health and performance.
Knee pain should not stop you from running if you enjoy it! Assess yourself to minimize knee pain or the likelihood of experiencing knee pain in the future. Make sure you know your family history and are at a healthy weight for your height. You can also decrease the likelihood of knee pain or an injury by incorporating lower body stretching and strength training into your weekly regimen. If you’re currently experiencing knee pain, make sure to identify the cause and treat it accordingly. If you consider all of these factors you should be able to manage your knee pain and continue to run for many years to come!
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