Monday, 12 December 2016

Did Running Bad For Your Joints?

Myths or Fact?

You’ve probably heard it before. “Running is bad for your joints.” Comments like these usually come from non-runners. Running is a natural action for humans, yet many people who don’t do it seem convinced that this highly beneficial exercise choice is ultimately bad for you. So are they right – could running be harmful to your joint health?

Contrary to popular belief, running does not cause arthritis or osteoarthritis later in life. “I think people have this misconception because we draw these conclusions from people who have run for a long time who have knee pain,” says Karen Morice, MD, an attending physician in the department of rehabilitation medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. “But you know what else happens over time? People get older, which is exactly when arthritis all over the body happens running or not. So it could be coincidence,” Dr. Morice says. Shazia Bég, MD, a board-certified rheumatologist at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine in Orlando, agrees. “Most studies show there isn’t any correlation between running and developing osteoarthritis. The biggest risk factor for developing osteoarthritis is age,” says Dr. Bég. “Think of your body like a car: The more miles you put on it, the more there’s a chance to damage it, there’s more wear and tear. The more miles you put on your joints, the more chance there is for degeneration,” Bég adds. It’s also genetic, she says, so you’re at a higher risk if there’s a history of arthritis in your family whether you’re a runner or not.

A 20-year study, conducted by Professor James Fries of Stanford University in California, found that runners from the study (now in their 70s) who run consistently could expect to have less arthritis than the non-runners when they get older. It also showed the runners to have a lower risk of osteoarthritis and hip replacements. 

A 2014 study conducted by Dr Grace Hsiao-Wei Lo, assistant professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Texas, found that running at any stage of life doesn’t increase a person’s risk of osteoarthritis of the knee. In fact, it may even help to ward off the condition. The findings of the study, presented at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting in Boston, looked at more than 2,600 participants, giving them knee x-rays, assessments and surveys. Researchers concluded that runners had a lower prevalence of knee pain than non-runners, regardless of their age.

“Our bodies are designed to run,” says Professor John Brewer, Head of School of Sport, Health and Applied Science (SHAS) at St Mary’s University. “In the past, we had to run to catch food or avoid being the food of a predator, so running is a natural form of human locomotion.” Samantha Moss is lead physiotherapist for Nuffield Health and has been monitoring various studies. “There is currently no good evidence that running alone causes osteoarthritis,” she says. “There is some evidence that extreme levels of running is harmful, that those who run marathons and ultra-marathons have a higher incidence of osteoarthritis, but there have been no good research trials into this to confirm a link either way.”

The Truth Is..

Far from jeopardising our mobility in later life, some loading of the joints is actually good for us. These adaptations explain the utility of physical activity in the treatment of arthritis, and the ability of joints to endure years of running without permanent damage. Ligaments and muscles, which support joints, are strengthened and reinforced by the stresses of athletic activity, improving joint mechanics. The flexibility of muscles, encouraged by exercise, can also aid the mechanical function of joints. Articular cartilage actually has its own feedback mechanism to respond to exercise. 

Chondrocytes, the living cells that make up just 1% of cartilage, sense the loading of articular cartilage and regulate the production of matrix components to repair and remodel the tissue in response to stress.“Running can improve our joint and bone health, especially if we manage the volume and frequency of our runs,” says physiotherapist Stuart Mailer from Kensington Physio & Sports Medicine. “When we run, there is a high stress and load going through our joints and bone tissue that can improve bone density, helping to prevent osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. The bone remodels itself frequently and adapts to the stress it is put through.”

But Cautions With..

- Running is a high-level physical activity, so your back, abs, and legs need to be strong,” says Morice. That’s why building good core strength is essential for all runners. The stronger your muscles, the less impact on your joints. You’ll also decrease the likelihood of injury, experts say.

- “Running on the concrete is the worst surface you can run on,” for joint wear and tear, according to Joseph Herrera, DO, assistant professor of rehabilitation at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. “The most ideal is running on soft surfaces such as tracks; asphalt is another good alternative. In general, the softer the surface, the more joint-friendly it is,” says Dr. Herrera.

Womans Running UK 11/2016

Ride On!

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