Does running cause arthritic knees?

By Denise Mann Health Day Reporter

(Health Day)

TUESDAY, March 7, 2023 (HealthDay News) — New research offers some good news for diehard marathon runners: You don’t have to stop running if you experience hip or knee pain.

Contrary to popular belief, running marathons does not increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis of the hip or knee, the wear-and-tear form of the disease, a new study of seasoned marathon runners in Chicago has shown.

“You don’t develop knee or hip osteoarthritis simply because of how fast you run or how many miles you run on your body,” said study author Dr Matthew James Hartwell. , a sports medicine researcher in orthopedic surgery at the University of California, San Fransisco.

So what increases the risk of hip or knee arthritis in a runner?

Basically the same things that increase those risks in non-marathoners, Hartwell said. This includes advanced age, a family history of hip or knee arthritis, and previous knee injuries or surgeries, as well as a higher body mass index (BMI), a measure of body fat based on height and weight.

For the study, more than 3,800 Chicago marathon runners (average age: nearly 44) answered questions about their running history, including number of marathons, number of years spent running and mileage average weekly. They also answered questions about known risk factors for knee and hip arthritis.

Participants completed an average of 9.5 marathons, ran 27.9 miles per week and had been running for about 15 years, the survey showed. 36.4% of runners had knee or hip pain in the past year and 7.3% had been diagnosed with hip and/or knee arthritis.

The bottom line? The study showed that a history of running was not linked to the development of knee or hip arthritis.

Most runners planned to run another marathon, although 24.2% said their doctor had told them to run less or stop running altogether.

Healthcare providers should rethink this general advice, Hartwell said.

“Telling someone to stop running for joint health reasons is not the answer,” he said. “Even with minor aches and pains, you don’t have to stop running.”

If you have persistent hip or knee pain, talk to your doctor and see if you need an X-ray to check for signs of arthritis, Hartwell recommended.

The new research is to be presented Thursday at a meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) in Las Vegas. Studies presented at medical meetings are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The results reinforce the advice that Dr. Matthew Matava gives to his running patients. He is a professor of orthopedic surgery and physical therapy at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and a spokesperson for the AAOS.

“A long-standing myth is that cumulative mileage from running causes osteoarthritis of the knee and hip, (but) running does not cause osteoarthritis in an otherwise healthy person without injury joint or prior surgery,” said Matava, who was not involved in the study.

Running can aggravate pre-existing arthritis in people who already have it to some degree, he noted.

Most causes of lower limb joint pain in runners are due to overuse and follow the “too much rule” – too many miles, too little rest and too fast, Matava said.

“Treat pain symptomatically with ice for up to 20 minutes at a time and use Tylenol or an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication for a short time,” he said.

It might also be time to invest in a new pair of running shoes.

“Each pair of running shoes can sustain 350 to 500 miles of running before their outsole (rubber sole) loses its cushioning effect,” Matava said.

If a runner experiences joint swelling, snagging or locking or doesn’t improve with conservative care, Matava said they should see an orthopedic sports medicine specialist to see what may be going on.

SOURCES: Matthew James Hartwell, MD, sports medicine researcher in orthopedic surgery, University of California, San Francisco; Matthew Matava, MD, professor, orthopedic surgery, physical therapy, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis; presentation, meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, Las Vegas, March 9, 2023

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