So what’s the deal with osteoarthritis? In New Zealand osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and is characterised by degradation, destruction and eventual loss of articular cartilage. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body, but more commonly occurs in the major weight-bearing joints such as hips, knees or lower spine. In 2018, approximately 670,000 New Zealanders aged 15 or over are living with at least one type of arthritis. This equates to 17.0% of the population aged 15 or over, or 1 in 6 people. (1)
But we’ve been led to believe that running is one of the main sports that causes this…right?
Many people believe that running causes osteoarthritis, but this is actually very unlikely. In fact it seems very unlikely that sporting activities that do not involve collisions cause osteoarthritis. This condition is a degenerative joint process often proceeded by an injury.
What does this mean? It means that osteoarthritis follows trauma (or an injury) caused by impact.
Currently, the overwhelming conclusions for various studies state that endurance running does not lead to osteoarthritis. These findings are significant because they could potentially lead to a new point of view on how running affects the human body. These results could open more people up to trying to run or continuing with running if they were on the fence about this exercise modality. The one irrefutable conclusion was that preexisting injuries, anatomical instability, and high body index does lead to higher chances of developing osteoarthritis. Thus, our focus should not be to blame running for osteoarthritis but to look at these other predisposing factors and work on fixing/preventing those. (2)
And if I have osteoarthritis how do I stay active? I’ll have to stop exercising….? People also jump to the conclusion that osteoarthritis means they have to stop exercising, which isn’t necessarily true. In a lot of cases the best treatment for osteoarthritis is actually exercise. The American College of Rheumatology has published guidelines for the treatment of osteoarthritis that suggest exercise is an important part of therapy. Exercise programs provid ed modest improvements in measures of disability, physical performance and pain in the knee and hip’. (3)
We treat many patients who have osteoarthritis and they are some of the fittest people we know. They live a normal life, enjoy the great outdoors and continue to do the activities they love.
Summary Osteoarthritis is caused by trauma and lifestyle NOT running. In fact running may be more of a preventative as people who run tend to have a lower body weight and better weight management, reducing the risk of osteoarthritis…so don’t ditch your run shoes just yet! Osteoarthritis is very common and having it does not mean you have to stop all activity as exercise and strength training is regarded as one of the best forms of management and can help with pain reduction for people with osteoarthritis.
So keep running, keep lifting and get out there!
Run Forest run!