Sun Run advice: Myth busting: Does running cause joint degeneration? – The Province

Sun Run advice: Myth busting: Does running cause joint degeneration?  The Province


This week’s Training Schedule for the upcoming Vancouver Sun Run.

Am I able to run? Is running bad for joint health? Will the stress from running put my knee joints at a higher risk for developing knee osteoarthritis (OA)? Many people ask themselves these questions when deciding if running is a safe recreational activity to participate in — a highly controversial topic for years amongst those in the running community.

Let’s start by discussing what running does to the cartilage in your knee joints. The cartilage in your knee joints help to provide cushion, support and absorption when you are in a loaded position or activity. There is often a misconception that the more you run, the more you wear down this cartilage and it’s protective benefits. Although long-distance running has been shown to decrease cartilage volume immediately after a run, there is also evidence to suggest that the cartilage has potential to recover very rapidly (about an hour after a run) to the original volume. What does this ultimately mean? The cartilage in our knee joints has the ability to adapt to the stress of running and can actually make the cartilage thicker and stronger over time.

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Now, let’s look at long-term exposure to running and whether this translates to degeneration or osteoarthritis at the knee joint. A 2017 meta-analysis looked at the prevalence of hip and knee OA in competitive/elite runners, recreational runners and non-runners living a more sedentary lifestyle. The prevalence of hip and knee OA was 13.3 per cent in competitive runners, 3.5 per cent in recreational runners, and 10.2 per cent in non-runners. This suggests that recreational running may help prevent hip and knee OA. This sounds like good news for the average runner!

Running can help strengthen and nourish the cartilage of the knees and may have long-term benefits on preventing degeneration. This means that if you love to run and are able to do so without pain, continue running. In pain? Find your nearest healthcare provider (who happens to be a running enthusiast) to get you back on your feet as soon as possible.

About the InTraining Program

Now in its 25th year, SportMedBC’s 13-Week InTraining Program has helped tens of thousands of runners and walkers reach their goal of completing the Vancouver Sun Run. With five programs to choose from and 50 clinic locations across the Lower Mainland and B.C., there is truly a program for everyone. Visit SportMedBC.com to learn more.

Casey Goheen is a registered physiotherapist