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Do treadmills increase the chances of knee injury?

Love them or hate them, treadmills are a key part of fitness and rehabilitation.  Whether you are new to running, you have been running for years, or perhaps you have recently suffered a treadmill injury and it’s made you question the impact it may or may not be having on your knees?  Our blog will take you through everything you need to know. As with any high impact exercise, it’s inevitable that running carries the risk of injury.  This could be anything from a short term sprain, shin splints or a pulled hamstring to long term injuries such as plantar fasciitis, runners knee and Achilles tendonitis.  All of which, of course, are pretty painful. Now, we all know that running causes stress on your lower limbs, but if running on a treadmill is causing pain in your knees then it’s most definitely worth investigating why and more importantly how it can be avoided.  Which leads us to ask the question, can a treadmill damage your knees? Let's discuss . . . To run or not to run Treadmills.  A fantastically convenient piece of equipment or a one-way ticket to a knee injury?  I think it’s safe to say that treadmills often get a bad rep, with many suggesting that overuse may cause pain in your knees.  But unless you have a pre-existing knee injury then there is no real reason to think bad of our cardiovascular friend. In fact, when used correctly it not only improves joint flexibility but aids weight loss, heart strength and improves muscle tone.   Outdoor vs Indoor While it’s no surprise that there is a constant debate on this, it’s important to remember that a lot comes down to personal preference and your own goals.  Some argue that outdoor is better for stability thanks to the varied terrain, whereas others believe that treadmills are better for consistency as you will be compelled to maintain a programmed level of speed.  But when we delve a little deeper, the treadmill actually comes out on top thanks to its cushioned surface, ease of use and accessibility. Outdoor running, however, is less favourable when it comes to potential knee pain as it increases the risk of stress injuries due to a harder impact, more strain on muscles, running uphill or downhill, not to mention twisting when changing direction.  This, of course, doesn’t mean that outdoor running is out of the question, it just means that if you are looking for lower impact workout then the treadmill is kinder to your knees. Arthritic knees or knee joint pain from the treadmill? Now, this is where things differ, as knee pain is no joke. As with any injury or pre-existing condition, it’s vital not to overdo things, and as tempting as it may be to go for a jog on a “good day”, the long term implications may be detrimental, therefore, if you are struggling with pain of any form, then we recommend seeking medical advice before engaging in a strenuous workout.   That said, it doesn’t mean that your treadmill days are over, quite the contrary in fact, as a low impact workout has been proven to strengthen muscles surrounding the knees, therefore, reducing pressure on the joint itself, which ultimately cuts down the overall wear and tear of the cartilage, this is particularly beneficial to those with arthritic knees. But if the treadmill is causing pain in your knees then it may be worthwhile following the below tips to avoid any long term damage:
  • Wear the correct footwear - we recommend a trainer with a cushioned heel area to act as a shock absorber on impact.
  • Limit usage - reduce the amount of time or how often you use a treadmill per week.
  • Alternate with strength training - combining cardio with strength is great for both cardiovascular and muscle tone.
  • Stretch, stretch, stretch - it’s important to engage the muscles before any form of exercise, otherwise, you might end up with a torn ligament or muscle strain.
  • Don’t run through any pain - we can’t stress this enough.  If you are in pain, then stop, rest and wait until you are fully recovered.
  • Keep things sensible - whether it’s training, rehabilitation, fun or the beginning of your fitness journey, listen to your body and don’t push yourself too hard.  
So in conclusion, when used correctly, the treadmill is an extremely effective piece of equipment and with no hard evidence to suggest that running will cause long term damage to your knees (unless you have a pre-existing knee injury or arthritis) it’s a great form of exercise, so long live the treadmill! For more information on arthritic or painful knee remedies, take a look at our hot and cold therapies where we stock a range of ice packs, freeze spray, heat spray and cryotherapy treatments.  Alternatively, we also stock a range of knee supports and braces, or for anything else simply contact our friendly team on 01522 875 252 who are always happy to help.