Does Running Cause Degenerative Knees?
There is a saying of a famous Chinese Martial art novel Master, Gou Leng: “True is false and false is true”. I believe that this is a very appropriate way to begin this article as the reflection of this wise Master echoes the point I would like to put forward.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives each year. This is not surprising since, whether the real cause is heart disease or not, various deaths are linked to diseases of the heart such as asthma, or cancers, coronary artery disease or strokes. These deaths will be recorded as heart failure or as the heart having stopped functioning.
However, statisticians’ data generally does not look at the root cause of why the heart stops working; this can result in many Thai people becoming anxious that they can commonly die from heart disease. This can be terrifying and can often lead to panic with people searching for the correction or prevention of the disease.
Furthermore, there have been several large news reports on the correct practices and procedures to avoid such incidents. One of these such practices is of aerobic exercise, such as running. The aim of this exercise is to stimulate an individual’s heartbeat up to 80% of the maximum capacity, allowing it to beat at that speed for 15-20 minutes. Reports stated that, consequently, this would also help reduce the amount of bad fat such as LDL cholesterol, triglyceride and increase the amount of good fat HDL cholesterol. Additionally, this would reduce the chance of developing a plug of the blood vessel where blood is transported the blood to the heart, which is the cause of
heart disease. In the past there have been large initiatives that have urged many Thai people to run every day. However it was not foreseen that so many people of 40 years old and over would visit a doctor with symptoms that are not connected to heart disease. They would often complain of knee ache, swollen knees and degenerative knee at an unexpected accelerated rate.
In 1993, the University of California conducted a study to see if running causes degenerative knees. During this study, 35 athletes were observed and investigations were initiated. X-rays were taken of their wrist bones, spines and ankles every year for 5 consecutive years. The results found that their knee degeneration rate was not different from other people, which proved that running does not accelerate degenerative knee or effect it in a negative way. So, with this conclusive evidence, why did so many Thai people who ran at that time acquire knee ache and degenerative knee? After the results of this study, various doctors and specialists studied this and they discovered that there is generally a difference in the muscle strength of Thai people and Westerners,. The real cause of the incident is that the muscle of Thais is not as strong as their Western counterparts. Furthermore, Westerners, especially European or Americans, often take exercises or play sports continuously, rather than solely when having leisure time or after retirement. Due to this continuous exercise, their muscles become stronger in general, particularly their back and thigh muscles. There is no condition of muscle regression as the muscle is able to balance the tension and relieve the pressure of the body weight.
It could also be argued that many of the young Thai generation will stop exercising for a long period of time after their teenage years. Many of them will graduate and start a new career where their demanding schedule could mean that they are simply too busy to take exercise or continue playing sport regularly. One condition that can gradually occur in the body is the atrophy of the muscle. Usually occurring in the back or the legs, this is a condition in which the muscle fiber will decrease in size until so much strain is put on it that it cannot withhold the weight of the body. The movement
within the usual daily routine will gradually and continuously create inflammation of the muscle that will accumulate within the muscle.
When it was asserted that running could prevent heart disease, large numbers of Thai people started running in public parks without knowing whether the muscle around their knee was strong enough to maintain constant exercise, or whether their muscles could withstand their body weight during the running process. Long-term running without a strong surrounding muscle to protect and relieve the repeated pressure on the knee cartilage can create considerable strain on the muscle. Consequently, this can accelerate the inflammation, eroding and degeneration of the knee. This is especially true for the elderly, whose cartilage is already in a regressive condition and they will often complain of swollen knees and knee ache around 3-4 days after starting running.
In conclusion, you can start to understand how important the muscle around the knee is. Following this article, I will explain further how it is possible to test whether this muscle is strong or not.