Osteoarthritis is often seen as a barrier preventing an athlete from being able to participate in exercise such as running. This condition is common among runners and can affect younger adults for several reasons. It is linked to being overweight and thought to be impacted by how much stress is put into the joints such as hips or knees during running. In osteoarthritis the cartilage can deteriorate resulting in a deformed joint and movements becomes more difficult and physiotherapy is often proposed as treatment for this condition.
Does running cause or increase osteoarthritis?
To answer at this question, we need to know there are many different variables involved in association and causation. Genetics, overweight and overuse play a role to a degree but often the main cause is subtle misalignments in the biomechanics.
Image 1: Shows subtle biomechanic misalignement
A recent systematic review has proposed muscle dysfunction and weakness resulting from injury, inadequate rehabilitation, overuse, and inactivity is the primary driver for Osteoarthritis. Another variable is the training volume. A recent study published suggests that the difference in these outcomes depends of the frequency and intensity of running.
Image 2: Shows risk of osteoarthritis
In conclusion: Moderate exercise, including running, will not damage your joints or cause Osteoarthritis, and if you already have some arthritis present it will not speed up the process. Running will only make Osteoarthritis worse if the supporting structures of the joint aren’t in good condition and your body isn’t in proper alignment.
What can I do to prevent or reduce this?
To reduce the risk of Osteoarthritis it is important to follow a few tips to make the running more enjoyable.
Make a good Warm Up: Warm up doesn’t mean jogging for 20 minutes before running. it’s based on mobility, dynamic stretching and coordination exercises which are aiming to prepare the athlete for the running activity.
Start and finish with stretching: Dynamic stretching before running to warm up and static stretching after running to cool down, this definitely can help and will make a difference on the muscle flexibility status.
Cross training with low – moderate impact activity: Only running is not enough to reduce the risk of injury, that’s why is always recommend to implement, on the other day, a low impact activity such as cycling, Pilates or weight bearing training to strengthen the CORE and lower limb muscles.
Eat low inflammatory food: Nutrition is also important as prevention. Eating junk food is generally not healthy and can increase the risk of inflammation in different tissues of our body. The advice is to have a regular diet with non-inflammatory foods
Image 3: Shows examples of anti-inflammatory foods
Improve your stride rate: To boost your stride rate, focus on your cadence during one easy run per week. Stay relaxed and try to glide over the ground. Also, pump your arms a little faster and your legs will follow. Check your stride rate a few times throughout the run to see if you can maintain the increased turnover.
Quality of Recovery: After running is important to have a good recover with salt minerals and vitamins, hydration, avoid any other stress activity and a good sleep
By Andrea Cutrupi