I have a family history of osteoarthritis, particularly in the knees. I began running recently and I’m wondering if I’m doing myself any harm. For many years my knees have popped and cracked, but they only hurt if I put a lot of weight on them, as I might when climbing a steep trail. They do not bother me when I run. If I am destined to have osteoarthritis, am I making it worse by running? I don’t run more than 10-15 miles per week.–Corey Corey, This is a great question and one that probably generates many conflicting answers. Running at a recreational level, away from steep climbs and ascents, should not cause any problems for your knees. Pops and crackles that are not associated with pain or loss of joint motion are just pops and crackles–they have little medical significance. There does seem to be a familial tendency to develop osteoarthritis, but there are no guarantees either way. You may end up with OA of the knees or you may not; running at your level will most likely not be the cause. Osteoarthritis is a non-inflammatory deterioration of the articular cartilage of the knee. The articular cartilage does not have a blood supply that courses through the full depth of the structure and the cartilage depends upon the sponging effect of weight bearing to get some of its nutrition. Running may help this process and three to five miles, three to five times a week could actually be a benefit and help ward off early onset of OA. There are studies of mice and men (and women) that show equal or less OA of the knees in runners compared to sedentary people. If you become symptomatic with running, you might consider changing to another activity or limiting your running to within the pain-free range. While it is hard to top the ease and convenience of running, the health benefit of any activity that raises your heart rate and makes you breathe hard for 30 to 40 minutes three or more times a week will give you the same health benefits as running. There are even great health benefits from casual or conversational walking. So keep running as long as you can and keep active for a life time. Hope this helps. Cheers, Bill Have a question for the Sports Doc? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org . NOTE: Due to the volume of mail, we regret that Dr. Roberts cannot answer every e-mail.