Debunking the myths
One would think that running, especially long-distance running, would cause an increase in risk for osteoarthritis (OA) later in life. This notion alone is enough to scare a lot of runners from continuing on with their running career. Research shows this is a myth.
MYTH #1: Running causes OA
Research shows that OA frequency in the running population and non-running population are equal. There is also no difference between the two groups in average cartilage thickness at the hips, knees or ankles. What this means is OA does not have a direct correlation with running, and neither does cartilage thickness.
MYTH #2: The longer distance you run, the more cartilage you will lose
There is indeed a reduction of cartilage volume of about 5-6% after running a 5K. But this volume is regained and returned to pre-run levels within 60 minutes of rest. Research also shows that there is no overall difference in cartilage volume changes between 5K, 10K and 20K runners. Most of this 5-6% volume change is due to dehydration from weight-bearing impact, but levels are regained after rest and rehydration.
What does the Doctor say?
Dr. Ryan Petering
, family and sports medicine doctor of OHSU Gabriel Park, states that there is no consistent evidence that weight-bearing sports cause OA. The biggest risk factors for OA are: being inactive, obese, and previous knee pain
. Some patients may have higher risks of OA because of previous meniscal tears
. In such populations, pivoting sports such as soccer and tennis may increase incidence of OA - so be careful.
What does the Physical Therapists say?
Proper strengthening of surrounding muscles will improve control and attenuation of weight-bearing forces. Knee pain does not necessarily indicate OA in the knee - the pain may be caused by malalignment of the kneecap (common, also known as "patellofemoral pain syndrome"), or tendonitis, or other diagnoses. Proper evaluation by your Stride Strong physical therapist will allow for further insight into the cause of your knee pain.
Alice Holland, DPT
Alice earned her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from USC in 2007, and have practiced Physical Therapy for 12+ years in the Outpatient Orthopedic Setting. Certified in ASTYM, she also has been a featured expert on Physical Therapy on numerous publications including health.com, healthline.com and yahoo.com.