As a long-time runner, I have been concerned about the effects of running
on my joints. Does running contribute to the development of osteoarthritis?
For years, I have done frequent literature searches to see if there
are any new studies that might help provide an answer to this question.
Osteoarthritis refers to a degeneration of the cartilage that cushions
the joints. Over a period of time, the cartilage can be worn down to
the point that the bones are actually rubbing against each other. This
results in pain with movement of the joints.
In Dr. Canaghan's article the conclusion was that "there seems to be little risk associated with recreational running." "There was an increased risk of lower limb osteoarthritis in participants of repetitive high impact sports."
Most of the literature seems to suggest that osteoarthritis is more
related to age and heredity than it is to exercise. This was a welcome
relief, but there are a few catches. The chance of getting osteoarthritis
is significantly increased in people who have a pre-existing injury
to the knee, hip or ankle joint and run or jog on a regular basis. This
does not refer to a running injury, but more to a serious injury that
causes damage to the cartilage or produces a torn ligament. Another
factor that predisposes one to osteoarthritis is an anatomical abnormality
of the weight-bearing joints. Examples of anatomical abnormalities would
be knock-knees, bowlegs or leg-length discrepancy. This evidently puts
much stress on the joints while running and can cause joint damage.
Walther M: Is running associated with premature degeneration of the
hip? A systemic review. Z Orthop Ihre Grenzgeb-March 1, 2004; 142(2):213-20.
Lane NE, Buckwalter JA: Exercise: A Cause of Osteoarthritis? Rheumatic
Disease Clinics of North America, Vol. 19 Aug. 1993 PP 617-633.
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