5 Cutting-Edge Arthritis Treatments All Runners Should Know About
By Cassie Shortsleeve March 19, 2019
Running doesn’t cause arthritis. Really: A study published just last year in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery found that veteran marathoners had about half as much arthritis as their non-running counterparts. Not only that, but a more recent study published in the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, shows that regular exercise actually helps prevent cartilage damage caused by arthritis by minimizing the inflammatory molecules that cause the pain and stiffness.
But the population is far from immune from the condition that’s marked by joint pain, inflammation, and a gradual wearing down of cartilage (the smooth connective tissue that protects your joints). “Runners get up to five times their body weight of force through their joints with each step,” says Florida podiatrist and podiatric surgeon Adam Perler, D.P.M. “This adds up to over two tons of accumulative pressure each day exerted on normal functioning joints.” And that’s just part of the reason we pavement pounders can wind up with an arthritis diagnosis—injury, genetics (some people are simply born with more durable cartilage), and alignment issues can also play a role in arthritis.
If you already suffer from arthritis, then you know the symptoms all too well: swollen, stiff, or painful joints first thing in the morning or after a run, limited range of motion, or even ‘locking’ or ‘catching’ in the joint. It’s only natural to look for a sustainable solution, but too often, they’re hard to come by. “Cartilage is produced by cells called chondrocytes but is not easily replaced once it is damaged,” says Perler.
Appropriately strength training the muscles around your joints, having the right shoes, and being properly aligned (if your pelvis isn’t level when you walk, or you tip during a single-leg squat, you could be overloading one side of your body putting unnecessary stress on a joint) are all good first-line defense mechanisms.
You also don’t necessarily have to give up running. Jordan Metzl, M.D., sports medicine physician at Hospital for Special Surgery, finds that many of his patients who suffer from arthritis (everything from arthritic ankles to spines) but also find a healthy way to maintain daily exercise including running, have an easier time managing the painful symptoms of arthritis. “There’s evidence that running is anti-inflammatory on the cellular level: It reduces the symptoms of osteoarthritis, aids with joint mobility, and also helps activate the muscles around joints,” he says. “All things considered, for most patients with osteoarthritis, running, in combination with a smart program that includes a gradual build in conjunction with strength training, does not have to be off-limits, and it may even help reduce symptoms.”
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