PT eDigest

xxxxDoes Running Cause Arthritis?

For years, runners have been warned that their favorite fitness activity puts them at risk for future arthritis. Today, however, many experts say that is not the case. While some studies have suggested that athletes who train rigorously may experience eventual deterioration of the leg joints, others have concluded that adults who run recreationally are not more prone to arthritis.

A 2013 study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that runners may even be protecting themselves against osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis in older adults. This occurs because running can make cartilage more durable and increase the strength and flexibility of tendons and ligaments, so they are less likely to tear or sprain under stress.

Genetics, obesity and aging are considered much more significant risk factors for developing osteoarthritis. Long-term stressful activity also plays a role. Adults who run moderately two to three times a week are unlikely to be causing joint damage.

Prior traumatic joint injury is another risk factor. Injury can cause the formation of scar tissue, abnormal running technique and weight gain from decreased activity, all of which increase the risk of future problems. Because running puts increased impact on lower body joints, weight control is essential. Even if you are a normal weight, eating a healthy diet and avoiding smoking will help promote good general health and prolong your years of enjoyable running.

If you are a runner who wants to resume your sport after injury, or if you already have mild osteoarthritis and would like to continue running, we can design a program that includes moderate running—gradually increasing the frequency, distance and intensity according to your ability. Cross-training with strengthening and stretching exercises can keep your muscles, tendons and ligaments strong and flexible, thus reducing stress on the joints. In addition, we can monitor your running technique and footwear and ensure that you are not exercising on surfaces that are too hard, all of which are important to maintaining good health while running.

Running is an activity favored by all sectors of the population. Should you experience some joint pain from osteoarthritis, contact us. We can design a program of strengthening and stretching exercises that can help you feel better and extend your running career for years to come.

Download the PTedigest for June 2014