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Can Running Lead To Osteoarthritis?

Running inadvertently can lead to osteoarthritis: Dr L. Tomar.

Can Running Lead To Osteoarthritis?

Only a person with healthy joints has the capability to run


  1. Osteoarthritis is an age-related degenerative disease
  2. Running without proper training can lead to injuries and osteoarthritis
  3. Osteoarthritis causes pain and inflammation in joints

Running is considered an excellent exercise. It helps in building stamina and improving the overall health of a person. However, we are all aware that injury while running is a common scenario. Many people believe that running can lead to osteoarthritis in joints that bear body weight. Factors like the pace of running or the quality of footwear you're wearing all determine your chances of injuries. Moderate or low-level runners are believed to be at lesser risk of developing osteoarthritis.

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Running inadvertently can lead to osteoarthritis

Both experienced and beginner runners should be aware of the fact that the body needs adequate time to bring a change in their gait. This change is caused by changing footwear. One should try increasing their running mileage slowly in new footwear. Maintaining optimum body mass, learning the right technique of running and improving flexibility and strength can help in preventing incidence of osteoarthritis in runners.

Also read: Do Glucosamine Supplements Work For Arthritis?

Dr L. Tomar, orthopedic surgeon, says that running is one of the many causes of osteoarthritis. "Scientifically if you are not running inadvertently, it improves the strength of cartilage and makes the knees stronger. But if you start running inadvertently without following a proper training programme, it may cause injury and ultimately lead to osteoarthritis," he says while adding that running alone is not the only cause of osteoarthritis.

Dr Tomar mentions that only a person with strong knees can run. "If you start running gradually and increase your speed as your body adapts to it, then it will not cause any injury. But in case there is some kind of sports injury and you continue to run in pain, it may lead to osteoarthritis," he explains.

Also read: Say No To Pills, Try These Ways To Relieve Arthritis Pain At Home

Causes of osteoarthritis

Dr Tomar says that deficiency of calcium and Vitamin D is one of the leading causes of osteoporosis. People suffering from osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis or thyroid may have softer cartilage. If these people try to run inadvertently, it may lead to osteoarthritis.

The main reasons for osteoarthritis are age-related degenerative changes. "Almost 80-85% people between the ages 60-65 suffer from osteoarthritis. It is an age-related degenerative disorder of the joints," says Dr Tomar.

As one ages, the water content in the cartilage increases, resulting in degeneration of protein makeup of cartilage. The cartilage eventually begins to degenerate with continuation of movement. Using these worn of joints repetitively causes inflammation in the joints, pain and swelling.

Spread of osteoarthritis can also be genetic wherein many members of the same family can end up suffering from the condition. Narrowing of cartilage in affected joint causes osteoarthritis. Other causes of osteoarthritis include hormonal disorders, diabetes, obesity, repeated surgeries, trauma and abnormal joints at birth.

Also read: Scorpion Venom Can Improve Treatment For Rheumatoid Arthritis

Lifestyle related causes

Bones are weakened because of dietary deficiency of calcium and Vitamin D. Deficiency of Vitamin D leads to osteoporosis and early arthritis. Other lifestyle disorders like lack of exercising can also lead to osteoarthritis.

Lack of exercising can lead to osteoarthritis 

Symptoms of osteoarthritis

"Most common symptoms of osteoarthritis are pain and swelling in joints. Painful restriction of movements is also a sign of osteoarthritis," says Dr Tomar.

If painful restriction of movements is not treated and continues for a long period of time, it ultimately leads to deformity of joints. Other symptoms of osteoarthritis include creaking and stiffness in joints and loss of range of motion.
joint pain

Pain in joints is a common symptom of osteoarthritis 
Photo Credit: iStock

Treatment of osteoarthritis

"Running is an effective exercise for people suffering from osteoarthritis. A person who has healthy joints will be able to run," he explains.

A condition like osteoarthritis can be treated effectively by taking sufficient rest, reducing weight, exercising and diet control. These measures are specifically important for large and weight-bearing joints like hips or knees. Even slight weight reduction can help in decreasing symptoms of osteoarthritis.

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Besides, oral or injected medications can help in reducing inflammation in joints and pain. Dr Tomar says that if exercise and a diet rich in calcium and Vitamin D doesn't work, the ultimate treatment of osteoarthritis is either arthroscopic surgery or joint replacement. 

(Dr L. Tomar is Director of Department of Orthopedics and Joint Replacement at Max Hospital, New Delhi)

Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.​


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