Running 101: Debunking the Myth of Running and Arthritis

It is almost spring, and this is the time when people come out of hibernation to start running.  Our first article on running titled “Instruction Manual on How to Run Like Tony Starks (Iron Man)” details why one should be fit to run rather than running to stay fit.  If you desire a healthy run, the article elaborates how to address your weak links.
If you are still skeptical and nervous about injuring your back and legs, or you have knee pain and are fearful of making it worse, there is a new study from the American College of Rheumatology that attempts to answer the age-old debate of whether running leads to arthritis.  This was a thorough study, and their results show that running is not correlated with increased incidence of knee arthritis.
Cartilage provides padding and protection at the end of your bones.  Arthritis is a result of this cartilage wearing down over time.  This is commonly referred to as having “bone on bone” when that happens.
MYTH: the cartilage at the end of your bones have limited life span like the soles of your
shoes or car windows.  If you repetitively use your shoes or roll up and down your car windows, they will eventually wear out.   But human joints are not comparable to a car window or a pair of shoes.  Our joints are healthy living tissues with regenerating capabilities.  This may explain why the study did not find a correlation between running and arthritis.

Keep in mind that this study did not look at people with a meniscus tear, or those who sustained a significant injury playing soccer in high school.  These are natural risk factors for accelerated arthritis; however, running may or may not accelerate that process in these population. This study also does not mention other injuries that result from running, such as tibial stress fracture, plantar fasciitis, patellar tendinitis, Achilles tendinitis, etc.  But you do have control: these conditions are preventable by working on your range of motion, running mechanics, and muscle imbalances.  If you would like to get an expert opinion on your risk of injury, click on the blue button.

This study did show that BMI does have high correlation with running.   If you are overweight, running is not the best idea for your joints at this time.  There are much better options for weight loss without sacrificing your joints.

As you may already know, there are myriads of benefits of running: cardiovascular health, relaxation, a sense of self-worth, etc.
With that being said, we at Revitalize Rehab Club are believers that you need to be fit to run and not “run to stay fit”.  A runner should optimize the way he/she runs to minimize injuries.  First of all, a runner needs 1) good flexibility, 2) muscle activation, 3) proper form, 4) proper technique, 5) proper shoes, and 6) proper dosing.  These are extensive and will require multiple blog posts to address them, but here are insights into the common problems:
1) Requirements of good flexibility in calf muscles and hip flexor muscles.
2) Poor gluteal activation (“gluteal amnesia”) is a common problem runners have.
3) Proper form: Your sternum bone should be slightly in front of your hips, etc.
4) Proper technique: Mastering the 4S’s of running: Sound, Step rate (cadence), Strike, Speed.
5) Proper shoes: Depending on your foot type.  You also should be alternating different shoes.
6) Proper dosing:   Knowing how much mileage your body can handle per week and increasing the volume accordingly will be important in injury prevention.  General guideline: 10% increase per week.  The key is to let your body slowly adapt!
Get evaluated by a spine and sports specialist, Dr Danh Ngo, today to see if you are fit to run!
Kay Lin, DPT, CSCS.