BACKGROUND & OBJECTIVE
Recent research has challenged a long-held belief that running "wears out your knees". In fact, studies suggest lower arthritis incidence in runners compared to non-runners (as discussed in the March edition of Physio Network). Despite this positive news, less is known about the effects of continuing to run in the presence of established osteoarthritis.
Should we recommend continued running? How will it influence arthritis progression and pain?
This study is one of the first to examine the effects of running in patients with OA to help answer these questions.
Data was gathered from the Osteoarthritis Initiative, a 10-year study that included over 1200 participants, 138 of which were runners. Subjects were at least 50 years old and had a diagnosis of OA in at least 1 knee. At baseline and at 48-months, symptoms and radiographs were assessed. A retrospective questionnaire was used at the 96-month visit to determine running status.
Participants were defined as a runner if running or jogging was identified as one of their 3 most frequently performed physical activities. To ensure sufficient frequency, subjects were ask to only consider activities they had performed at least 10 times for at least 20 minutes each time.
Symptoms were assessed used a dichotomous question - "During the last 12 months, have you had pain, aching, or stiffness in or around your right knee on most days for at least one month?" - the only 2 possible answers being yes or no. The study didn't appear to measure pain severity or running training load in any detail.
Compared to non-runners, runners did not have increased odds for worsening of x-ray findings or development of new knee pain. Running was not associated with worsening knee pain or radiographically defined structural progression. In fact, runners had more improvement in