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    The 6 Joint Docs on Running



    Running won’t damage your knees. Here are eight facts about joint health.

    According to joint surgeons and doctors, the idea that running is bad news for your knees has been a common fitness myth. There are many misconceptions about running and how it affects the body. Six joint experts were asked to help us understand the true story of running and how it affects your joints. Here are their comments:

    Running Doesn’t Cause Arthritis

    Running does not cause osteoarthritis or arthritis later in life, contrary to popular belief. “I believe people have this misconception because they draw these conclusions out of people who have ran for a long period of time and have knee pain,” Karen Morice, MD, an attending doctor in the department rehabilitation medicine at Montefiore Medical Center, New York City.

    “But did you know that there are other things that can happen over time?” As people age, arthritis all over the body occurs. It could also be coincidence,” Dr. Morice said. Shazia Beg MD, a board certified rheumatologist from the University of Central Florida College of Medicine, Orlando, concurs. Most studies have shown that there is no correlation between running and osteoarthritis. Dr. Beg says that age is the biggest risk factor in osteoarthritis development. Think of your body as a car. The more you drive it, the greater chance it will be damaged. Beg says that the greater your risk of degeneration, the more you put miles on your joints. She also says that it is genetic so you are at higher risk if you have a family history of arthritis, regardless if you are a runner.

    Running when injured causes serious damage

    Tracy Ray, MD, associate professor of orthopedics at Duke University School, Durham, North Carolina, says that there has never been a study showing that running alone causes arthritis or direct damage to the knee. Dr. Ray explains that if you have already suffered damage to your knees, it is possible to cause more damage. However, the same applies for any weight-bearing activity such as basketball. This is true for both the person who runs nine-miles per week and the one who runs 40 miles per week, he says. It all depends on your knee health. Ray adds that if you have not had an injury or have not received an X-ray showing wear to the cartilage, it is safe for you to continue training.

    Proper training takes a lot longer than you think

    Experts agreed that it is important to build up a good training program over time. This will help protect the knees from injury. Ray says that there are online training programs that claim that you can run a 5k in six week or a half-marathon for charity in three month. Some people get away with it. He says, “I see people who don’t have the ability to do that. And there are many.” Ray says, “Your cardiovascular health is more important than your cartilage or joints.”

    Don’t push yourself too hard if you are a beginner. This can cause stress fractures and overuse injuries. Leonardo Oliveira MD, assistant professor of medicine at University of Central Florida College of Medicine, Orlando, suggests that you start by running/walking intervals. Dr. Oliveira recommends walking for four minutes and then running for one. Each week, work a little more and then rest every other day. He says, “This helps the body adjust to activity.”

    You need to rest days in order to protect your knees

    Oliveira says that rest days are important to allow the body to recover. Oliveira says that if you are training for a marathon, or half-marathon you need to increase your mileage gradually and not run back-to-back. He suggests that you might run three miles, do cross training to increase leg strength and hip strength, then do your longer run the next day. Then, take a day off. He says that your experience level and goal should determine your routine. Pain and soreness are your guides. He says, “If you are very sore the next day after a run it wouldn’t be wise to run that day.”

    Running is a factor in developing knee problems

    Guillem Gonzalez Lomas, MD, assistant professor in orthopedic surgery at New York University Langone medical center, says that technique is crucial when it comes to knee pain or running. Dr. Gonzalez-Lomas explains that it is important to know how their feet strike the ground, how they pronate and if they have weak hip stabilizers. He says that there are many ways to dynamically modify these things, such as making minor adjustments to your stride and orthotics to shift your weight slightly when your foot touches the ground.

    All Runners Need Strength Training

    Morice says that running is a very high-level activity. Therefore, your back, legs, and abs must be strong. For serious runners, core strength is crucial. Your joints will be less affected if your muscles are stronger. Experts also suggest that you can reduce the risk of injury. Oliveira recommends strength training twice to three times per week to strengthen your core and make it more resilient to the running impact. Oliveira states that stronger muscles will reduce the impact on your joints when you run, which will lower your chances of injury or damage.

    It Matters What You Run on the Surface

    Joseph Herrera, DO assistant professor of rehabilitation at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine in New York City, stated that running on concrete is the most dangerous surface for joint wear. Running on tracks or asphalt is a good option. Dr. Herrera says that generally, the smoother the surface is, the better it is for joint health. Many runners might notice that softer surfaces can slow them down. Gonzalez-Lomas says that while softer surfaces may not be as efficient for running and slow you down, they will absorb some impact and be easier on your joints. The rubberized, newer running tracks are the best artificial surfaces for your joints. Gonzalez-Lomas says that they have turf to provide cushioning and spring-back for your feet.

    It is crucial to choose the right shoes

    Although you might not be able control the surface that you run on, your footwear can. It will take some trial and error to find the right shoes. Gonzalez-Lomas says that although they are not medical professionals, the staff at running shops have a good idea of which shoe is best for each person.

    Oliveira recommends visiting a running shop to get fitted for running shoes that fit your foot. Oliveira also suggests changing your running shoes every 300-400 miles. As shoes age, they lose their cushioning and ability to withstand shock. He says that many runners I know purchase two pairs of shoes at once, which slows down the process of shoe’s losing its cushion and coil.

    Every run should include stretching

    Oliveira says that gentle stretching is important the day after a run. No matter how long your run is, you should stretch before and after each run. He also recommends that you stretch after your run. Oliveira says that quadriceps and hamstrings are the muscles I recommend the most. Ice can also be used to reduce soreness after a run and relieve muscle and joint stress.



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