Terry Lee Young, San Antonio athlete and inventor, loves nothing more than the feeling he gets after a good run. What he doesn’t like is the pain in his knees that sometimes follows a workout. Knee pain is one of the reasons many runners hang up their sneakers before they want to.
If a runner is doing harm to their knees, especially if the pain becomes so intense that it changes the way they run, it may be time to stop running and take a walk to the doctor. In most cases running is a healthy activity, but it's a matter of how you start the run that can make the difference for your knees.
There is a widespread belief that running can cause arthritis in the knees. Dr. Lewis Maharam, fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, says that belief is simply a myth, an old wives tale.
Says Dr. Maharam, “Your parents decide if you're going to have arthritis or not. It’s genetic.”
He elaborates, “Jogging, or running, in and of itself will not cause arthritis. If you already have arthritis, and you have bone on bone contact, with insufficient cartilage in your knee, running will make it worse.”
If anything, jogging can help prevent arthritis and other knee related problems. Exercise helps people with arthritis, and recent studies find that jogging, with a few caveats, is good for knee cartilage. The key is to listen to your body and start slowly.
Taking it slow when you start jogging can preserve and strengthen the knee cartilage and surrounding muscles. Warming up properly and starting out with a slow pace will give the knees a chance to get used to the stress and impact. If the runner is 25 pounds or more overweight, it is advisable to do a fast-paced walk when beginning. This can help lose enough weight to prevent stressing your knee joints when starting to run.
No Pain is Good
The old adage “no pain, no gain” does not apply to a runner who is experiencing pain in the knees. A runner who feels pain should shut down the workout immediately. Experts agree that trying to “work through” the pain can result in potentially lifelong injuries.
Chris Troyanos, certified athletic trainer and the medical coordinator for the Boston Marathon, has some blunt advice, saying, “If you have any type of existing pain or discomfort in your legs, it's not smart to keep running.”
The best way to prevent a knee injury during training is to be prepared before beginning a workout. It is important to wear good running shoes, do warm up, cool down and stretching exercises before every run and gradually increase the length and intensity of the workout.
Claire Kowalchik, author of "The Complete Book of Running for Women” says it is important to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee.
“By strengthening the quadriceps and the tendons and ligaments around the knees, you will help make your knees more stable and resistant to injury."
There are a few options to explore when treating knee pain as a result of running. It has been said that pain reliever are a runner’s best friend. They can help deaden the pain however they should not be used to lessen the pain during a run.
The temptation to use pain killers to assist a workout is common says Terry Lee Young.
“The pull to take a couple of pills before running can be strong, but the runner could end up doing permanent damage.”
Pain and Needles
Some runners are using acupuncture to help with relief from knee pain. Needle therapy has been shown in studies to increase circulation and range of motion. This can help accelerate the recovery time from a running injury.
The problem is that many people are not fond of needles and the thought of getting a series of treatments is daunting.
Topical pain relief formulas, such as ICE Athletic, have become a popular - and healthier - alternative to prescription pain medications for runners. Topical pain killers, also called analgesics, are either sprayed directly on to the knee or rubbed into the skin.
Once absorbed into the skin, topical pain killers can help with pain in joints close to the skin and are most effective for fingers, elbows and knees. Should the pain persist, the best advice is to consult your doctor.
Going for a run can be great for your overall health. Listen to your body and get treatment immediately for minor pain. If you do, running can be very beneficial, as well as a great way to enjoy the outdoors. According to Terry Lee Young, San Antonio is a runner’s paradise and he aims to make running a lifelong activity.